The first reading refers to sins like scarlet and crimson red. When these two colors are contrasted with white, like snow or wool, they stand out most dramatically. Most people have heard of Sodom and Gomorrah in Old Testament. While the book of Genesis describes the sins of the two cities to have been sexual in nature, Ezekiel suggests it was more than that. And if we read carefully the account in Genesis where Abraham is asking how few people it would take for God to save the city, and we learn that for the sake of ten righteous people God would save the cities, it had gotten pretty bad there indeed.
If you had a chance to describe our society in moral terms, how would you do it? What words would you choose? What behaviors would you identify? How is it you would relate the current state of society to the Lord God? And what pronoun would you use? Would you talk about they or we? Would you choose to identify with the sinful parts of society as things you yourself are also a part of, or would you point fingers at others?
I find the 8th chapter of Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans to be one of my favorites. So much of this chapter is a consoling reminder that in all of the chaos of our lives, God loves us, has a plan, and cannot be separated from us. During some difficult times in my life, I have found this chapter to have helped me through tough things a lot.
The first reading today is a challenge. Why would God command Abraham to sacrifice his son? Is there a bigger message at stake here? What does this have to do with Lent? And what are we to make of all this? While the first reading certainly presents a challenge, understood in the proper context it can also help us to see how the wisdom of God can lead us to eternal life.
Sometimes I am tempted to do the bare minimum. I look to see just how little I can do and still be able to count something as having been done. As a child, there was the question about how late (or how early) one could leave Mass and still be able to say it counted that you had attended Mass. Was it by the opening prayer? The first reading? The gospel? (We always concluded the gospel was the absolute latest we could arrive.)
That’s not fair! I am sure every parent has heard this cry coming from their son or daughter. Probably a lot more than once too. There is deep within most of us a desire for fairness. This is especially true I think when we focus on ways we might be treated unfairly. And yet treating people fairly and being treated fairly are not always easy things to do. Sometimes I find that when I think things are not fair, I am not always right.
Do you know how to pray? More and more over the last couple of years I have focused more on this notion of providing concrete ways to help with knowing how to pray. Today’s gospel provides a good outline for prayer. Ask. Seek. Knock.
And so the prayer we read in today’s first reading is Esther’s deep cry for help from God in this difficult dilemma she finds herself. Her prayer teaches us so many important lessons about our prayer. Let’s take a look at these one at a time.
Seeing is believing. Missouri is the show me state. I will not believe until I put my hands in the nail marks. Prove it. How often are we skeptics? Of course, we live in a world where it can be easy to get taken, and sometimes our skepticism is well-placed. The world around us is filled with people who do not have our best interest at heart, but theirs, so they do not hesitate to defraud us. And this has been going on for a long time, well, since the serpent tricked Adam and Eve.
Words. Words. Words. There are more way to read, speak and hear words than ever before. But there is really only one word that matters. He it The Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.