But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Jesus mentions kingdoms divided against themselves and their inevitable fall. Lent is a good time to consider our own kingdoms and I think it best to start with our own “house.” Perhaps there are a few demons there or maybe just a few distractions keeping us from the Kingdom of God that Jesus says is upon us. What is the status of your innermost house? Are you fooling people with your curb appeal Lenten resolution?
Luke’s Gospel is a good place to contemplate your house because his writings portray Jesus as especially prayerful. Just a few verses earlier in chapter 11 Jesus teaches us how to pray. Prayer is necessary for a strong house and a strong house is necessary for God's kingdom. Don’t be caught defenseless when “one stronger” attacks and attempts to overcome you. God is calling you to help bring his Kingdom to fulfillment. Just as Jesus relied on prayer during his journey to Jerusalem we too need prayer during our Lenten journey.
May Christ’s peace be with you.
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Reflection: Drew Krainz ‘08, Health/Physical Education Faculty
Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment to which he replies to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Frankly, I’m certain that I’ve been falling short of the greatest commandment. (yikes!) I could blame it on my human nature or I could reflect on my habits and devise a course of action. What does loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength look like? Do I accomplish daily tasks in a way that will glorify His name? The demands of living in the 21st century require our attention to be pulled in so many directions. I find myself multitasking, skim reading, squeezing exercise into a short window of free time, etc. It dawned upon me that it may have been a while since the last time I gave any particular activity my entire heart, soul, mind, and strength. Simplify, slow down, quality over quantity, find time to pray-- sounds like a good place to start.
Secondly, love your neighbor as yourself. Perhaps, Jesus’s second response is a more concrete way of abiding by the greatest commandment. After all, we are created in His image and likeness. Reflecting on the passage has brought an awareness of my shortcomings, but also has me thinking about how I might do better. How can I be more helpful throughout the day? How might a more positive disposition create a ripple effect throughout a community? (Wow, that could be powerful!) How much better can I serve my community if I took care of myself? Would I be more patient, understanding, attentive, etc? I can see no better time than our current Lenten season to refocus and find answers to the questions.
March 13, 2021 - Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Reflection: Janet Lehane, S.P.A. Spiritual Director
Jesus teaches us about prayer and discipleship through parables as found in Luke Chapter 18. The contrast between hero and villain shows it is our approach and attitude that matter in prayer. Is our gaze focused on God or on ourselves in our prayer? The hero Tax Collector’s focus is centered on God while the villain Pharisee’s is centered on himself.
The Pharisee in this passage is the villain, not because of his ministry or desire to follow the rules of fasting and tithing, but in his attitude of pride, self-righteousness and superiority. His prayer to God focused on gratitude for himself. He does not come with a sense of needing a God of love and mercy. He is in control and in a most honored position, disconnected from others.
The hero is the Tax Collector. His work status makes him most hated as taxes are collected for Rome.. He approaches God with humility. He is dependent on God and finds his dignity and status in God’s loving, merciful presence.
We can see in our times the huge emphasis on power, honors, status, and wealth. We can also see growing populations shamed, ridiculed, blamed, impoverished and disempowered.Jesus is teaching us in this parable about False Pride and True Humility. The dignity of the Tax Collector in prayer is apparent whatever his status socially. In any social, religious, political, educational, legal, labor, and family environment we can be tempted to regard the other with contempt and disrespect just as the Pharisee does. We can even disrespect ourselves.We need to humbly turn to a God of mercy.
I recognize I am both the Pharisee and Tax Collector in my life. I am both a villain and hero. I come before Christ in prayer in my incompleteness. Ignatian Spirituality, as described by Howard Gray S.J., helps with its emphasis on paying attention to what is being revealed in and around me, listening reverently to the other’s perspective until some new understanding breaks through, and devoting myself to deepening my relationship in God.