Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Both of the bible readings for today’s Mass are powerful. Let me start with the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah prefigures what Jesus will say in the Gospel. The message is this: we should be known for the integrity of our lives. “Cease doing evil; learn to do good.” What does that mean concretely? Isaiah spells it out: “Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, and defend the widow.”
Orphans and widows symbolize all the helpless people of the world. To neglect the poor while wearing brocaded chasubles or jewelry like rings and crosses is blasphemy. Insisting on titles like “Your Eminence” or “Your Grace” doesn’t impress God.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that the religious leaders of his time must be listened to and obeyed. But their conduct, their lack of integrity, must not be imitated. They lack compassion. They disregard justice. Jesus calls them hypocrites.
Being indifferent while vulnerable and innocent human beings are slaughtered makes our hands unclean. They are, in the words of Isaiah, “full of blood.” Our sins are “like scarlet … crimson red.”
That is why God calls out, through the prophet: “Wash yourselves clean!” The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the means Jesus uses to wash us clean. Let us remember to go to confession. But it cannot stop there. We have to attend to the widows, the orphans, the troubled mothers, the unborn, and the newborn poor – anyone who is in need of our care.
“The greatest among you must be [a] servant.” “If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!”
Reflection by Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB