Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
Memorial Feast: Saint Polycarp (AD 64-+155) Bishop and Martyr, Patron Saint of Earaches
Book of the Prophet Isaiah 55:10-11, Psalm 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19, Matthew 6:7-15
The beautiful imagery in Isaiah (my favorite of the Old Testament prophets) evokes one of the central Lenten themes; Lent is a time to plant the Word of God deep within you, water it, and make it fertile and fruitful. For God's Word never returns to its source void. It achieves the end for which it is sent.
Words! We cannot live without them, yet we cannot live with too many of them. With too many, we babble; with too few, we are mute. Words empower, and words destroy. Words praise and condemn; words reward and punish. Words can express love, and they can be the tools of hate. Words make peace, and words declare war. Words can hurt, and words can pronounce forgiveness. And, most importantly, with words, we craft our prayers, "from your lips to God's ears," as the saying goes.
In today's Gospel narrative, the disciples of Jesus asked Him how best to pray. He admonished them not to pile up words. The prayer He taught them was sparse on words and disciplined of the word. Yet, in this economy of words resides richness and expansiveness that has captivated, consoled, and nurtured Christians for over two millennia.
Let the words of the 'Our Father' embrace you. I do not believe that anyone can improve the words of this exquisite prayer. There is no new interpretation that would adjust the way we approach its meaning and its purpose. Therefore, I suggest that we close our eyes and recite them slowly and quietly. Let the words of Jesus wash over you, let them grow deep within you; let them fulfill within you; let them give you hope and strength to give back to Jesus what Jesus gave to us; the forgiveness of our sins and forgiveness for those who have offended us. Amen.
Question of the Day: What will you plant, water, and nurture this Lenten season?
Prayer: "When I called, the God of justice gave me answer; from anguish you released me; have mercy, O Lord, and hear my prayer!" (Psalm 4:2)