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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Saturday, February 28, 2009

One of the most appealing images for me in the bible occurs in the Book of Genesis. There, at the very beginning of humanity’s relationship with God, disobedience and sin have been chosen by Adam and Eve. They are filled with shame and are utterly self conscious of their nakedness, of how exposed they are before their Maker. So they hide, thinking that the trees of the garden could shield them from the gaze of the all-knowing God. Yet God walks in the garden seeking out the man and the woman, calling out to them “where are you?”. To my mind this seems to be a major feature of our salvation story. Sin, disobedience, human shame and yet God is always seeking us out, calling to us in so many different ways.

The readings for today’s Mass speak so beautifully of this. In the prophet Isaiah God calls to us and reasons with us telling us to do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, and the wicked word. God yearns for us to be truly free and liberated from hardness of heart and pettiness. How do we achieve this freedom? By loving service of our neighbours before ourselves and of God. Through this service our light will rise in the darkness, we will find strength for our bones, and we will be like a spring that will never run dry. In serving others and respecting the Sabbath as a day of rest, we will find true happiness in the Lord.

The Gospel is another powerful statement of how God constantly seeks us out. Jesus goes in search of the sinners and outcasts, in this case Levi (also called Matthew in the Gospels) a tax collector. These men were known as collaborators with the hated Roman occupiers, traitors and exploiters of their fellow Jews. They were despised. Yet Jesus goes to call even Levi and not only to call him but to eat with him, an important sign of fellowship. God’s longing for all of us sinners is clear for he says “it is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus’ message is clear. This Lent let us turn toward the Lord therefore with hope and confidence in his loving search for us so that we may raise the voice of our hearts in joyful response to him as he calls out “where are you?”

David Barrins OP


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