Scripture Readings (this is a day late)
Here we are. We are nearing the first Sunday in Lent. We have taken our Lenten fasts and devotions out for a test drive. At this point, we might have been put in a situation by our Lenten practices where we say “Well this is inconvenient.”
Among the many purposes of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer during Lent, I find the moment of inconvenience so important. It is a part of our training for the Christian life. This rhythm of inconvenience is found throughout all the readings today.
The first movement of inconvenience is the call. This is found in today’s gospel reading. Luke records, “Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.” The inconvenience of our Lenten practices helps prepare us for the ever-deepening call from the Lord. This is the Lord that shows up in the middle of Levi’s workday and just says ‘Come, follow me”. When Christ, encounters us at inopportune times we hope to stand up and respond. To do so, we need to be willing to do that which is inconvenient for our Faith.
The second movement is a hopeful effort to address injustice. We see one approach to this in Luke today, “Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.” We also find this call articulated in the first reading, “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” Anyone of us can see how the call to “remove from your midst oppression” seems like an inconveniently impossible demand. Yet we are called to pursue it in Hope, trusting that the Lord can do far more through our meager efforts than we could ever dream.
The third movement is the surrender of our rest. The entire end of the first reading speaks to this. Here is what is found in Isaiah, “If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the Sabbath a delight, and the LORD’s holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice. Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” The quintessential day off, or Sabbath, is not ‘my time.’ It isn’t the day that I get to spend however I want; doing whatever pleases me. Instead, Isaiah inconveniently tells us that true rest, “the heritage of Jacob”, comes from the Lord. And so we are called to Love the Lord to the point of even trusting Him with our rest.
Lord, this Lent, as we partake in fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, help them to deepen faith, hope and love within us so that we may respond to your call, offer ourselves as a solution to injustice, and surrender our rest to you.