Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Third Week of Lent

Luke 4:28-30 - World English Bible

24 Jesus said, "Most certainly I tell you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. 26 Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, except Naaman, the Syrian."

28 They were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things. 29 They rose up, threw him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw him off the cliff. 30 But he, passing through the middle of them, went his way.

In Luke 4, Jesus returned to home to Nazareth, where he proclaimed Isaiah 61:1-2 fulfilled. YHWH had poured his Spirit on him; he would heal the people, deliver the captives and declare a jubilee year. The people, unfortunately, would have none of this.

The passages above listed Jesus' response to their rejection: "A prophet is not welcome in his hometown." To prove his assertion, he recalled the two great prophets of Galilee (Elijah and his successor, Elisha) and their miracles. Elijah performed a small miracle of food for a destitute, but hospitable widow. Of all the lepers in the northern kingdom of Israel, Elisha only cured a foreigner and military foe, Naaman the Syrian. By mentioning these two great men, the Lord drew parallels between their ministry and his. Empowered by the Spirit, they had come to spread God's message through word and deed. In the same way, Jesus claimed the Spirit because of his preaching and healing ministry. The people did not accept his words (and, implicitly, his works); so, as a mob, they tried to kill him. But, his walked through their midst.

People claim to believe in Jesus. Why do they act as if they rejected his message and activity in their lives?

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Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

Matthew 18:21-25 - World English Bible

21 Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?"

22 Jesus said to him, "I don't tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. 24 When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But because he couldn't pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!' 27 The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

28 "But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!'

29 "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you!' 30 He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord called him in, and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. 33 Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?' 34 His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don't each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds."

With a simple question in Matthew 18, Jesus taught his followers how forgiveness "cut against the grain" of human nature. Peter asked Jesus about the extent of forgiveness; was seven times enough? Note the number "seven" meant complete. In this case, the disciple asked if total forgiveness (seven times) meant the offense would not be mentioned again in a social context. But, the Master knew the human heart; the sin could be set aside in public, but fester in private, so he insisted upon continual forgiveness (seven times seventy). Such ongoing forgiveness was part of one's daily spiritual struggle against personal pettiness.

To drive his point home, Jesus told a parable about a court official who had borrowed (and presumably squandered) an amount so large, it could represent the Gross National Product of the kingdom! The Lord got the attention of his audience with that outrageous claim, but then would top it when the king forgave the man's debt. Yet, the petty official threw a man into debtor's prison for 100 days wages. In today's money, the official owed the king $15 trillion while his fellow servant owed the greedy man $25, 000. The disparity was obvious and only heightened the moral of the story found in 18:33: "Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?"

We might get angry when we don't receive our due. At those times, we must remember the debt we owe to our Maker, for we owe him everything.

Whom do you need to forgive today?

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Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

Matthew 5:17-19 - World English Bible

Jesus said to the people

17 "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 19 Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven."

In these few verses from Matthew 5, Jesus addressed the controversy of his preaching. Implicitly, his enemies accused him of breaking the Law, both in word and deed, for he did things that were novel. At the time, ancient culture esteemed the old and looked askance at the new; the scribes and the Pharisees defended the tradition of the elders through their rulings, while the Lord seemed to flaunt that tradition. In his defense, Jesus defended his interpretation of the Law (5:17-18) and later accused the religious leaders of creating barriers to the Kingdom through their edicts (see Matthew 23:1-4). Matthew 5:19 put that fight into perspective. The Pharisees who said one thing and did another, breaking the Law in small ways and teaching others to do so by example would be the least in the Kingdom, if they arrived at all. But the one who preached the Good News by word and deed consistently, that person would have a great reputation under God's reign.

Are you a consistent Christian?

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Thursday in the Third Week of Lent

Luke 11:14-23 - World English Bible

14 Jesus was casting out a demon, and it was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the multitudes marveled. 15 But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons." 16 Others, testing him, sought from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. A house divided against itself falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 But if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore will they be your judges. 20 But if I by God's finger cast out demons, then God's Kingdom has come to you.

21 "When the strong man, fully armed, guards his own dwelling, his goods are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks him and overcomes him, he takes from him his whole armor in which he trusted, and divides his plunder.

23 "He that is not with me is against me. He who doesn't gather with me scatters."

In the face of controversy, Jesus insisted on a choice, either side with him or stand against him. His adversaries connected his healings with demonic forces, but he pointed out the illogic of their charge. "If Satan is divided against himself, how can he stand?" He continued with absurd insight: "If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your children cast them out?" In other words, where did the power of exorcism (practiced by his contemporaries) come from? God, of course! He concluded with an obvious point: " If I by God's finger cast out demons, then God's Kingdom has come to you." Yet, he implied on which side his opponents stood; if he possessed the power of God, his enemies aligned themselves with the powers of darkness. The religious leaders who opposed him divided the people. They might think they were strong, but pride blinded them to their weaknesses. Their places would be soon swept away (by the Romans in the Great Jewish War between and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD), while the Christian movement would flourish. His followers would survive, while his enemies would fall.

It's easy to criticize; people judge all the time. The danger lies in their own self righteousness, when people presume the favor of God to their point of view, and so, judge as the Maker judges, not realizing that divine will could lie with the opponent.

Have you judged others harshly lately? Have you sincerely prayed for them?

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Friday in the Third Week of Lent

Mark 12:28-34 - World English Bible

28 One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that Jesus had answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the greatest of all?"

29 Jesus answered, "The greatest is, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. 31 The second is like this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

32 The scribe said to him, "Truly, teacher, you have said well that he is one, and there is none other but he, 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from God's Kingdom."

No one dared ask him any question after that.

In the midst of many controversies, a scribe asked Jesus a question about priority in the Law. This conversation was remarkable in Mark for its lack of rhetorical pyrotechnics; in fact, the scribe approved of the Lord's answer to his inquiry, and, in turn, Jesus told the expert in the Law he was not far from the Kingdom.

The scribe's question was simple: "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" This was not only an inquiry into the one edict that stood out; it sought an organizing principle, one command that formed the others into a hierarchy. Jesus answered that question with the answer" "Love." Love God above all else (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) and your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). The notion of love was more than a feeling; it was charity and hospitality. Both active virtues expressed a respect for God's creation and for social order. Love lived out wove the duty of worship and social responsibility into a single guiding force in life. It was, as the scribe described it, "more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33). Upon this point, the expert in the Law and the Lord agreed, bringing the scribe closer to Christ and the Kingdom.

What makes Christians different, besides our creed? It should be our charity, a love that guides our worship of God and our treatment of others.

How have you lived out the Great Commandment this week?

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Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

Luke 18:9-14 - World English Bible

9 Jesus spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: 'God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

In Luke's gospel, Jesus flipped social convention on its head. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, most people would have seen the Pharisee as the "good guy." His spiritual life and charity were on display; those qualities made him a social magnet. The populace would have avoided the tax collector as a "bad guy." He collected monies for an oppressive foreign power and enriched himself through the extortion legalized under the Roman tax system. Yet, Jesus declared only the tax collector justified before God. Why? The reason was simple. The Pharisees never asked for anything; in fact, he didn't really pray; he simply bragged. Unlike the pride of the Phraisee, the tax collector asked in humility. "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

Have you asked for mercy from God today?

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