Monthly Scripture Reflection

“You shall call for help.”
Isaiah 58:9

“And the Lord will say, ‘Here I am.’”  How comforting this wintry February to know what a loving, caring God we have. One who even sent his son to share our humanity and lead us to the right path. Humankind time after time has tried to serve God properly, but just as often has fallen short. Malachi describes it as our need for “refining.” We say we “need a course correction.”

The wisdom writer Sirach assures us, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments . . . they will save you.” What commandments? God made it simple: love God and love your neighbor. How? The Mosaic Law made it more explicit, and devout Jews like Mary and Joseph followed it faithfully, as in presenting the infant Jesus in the Temple. But to “be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy,” humans need more directives.

Isaiah offers some examples: share your bread, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked. Remove “oppression, false accusations, and malicious speech” from your midst. In Leviticus we hear, “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister.” “Take no revenge and cherish not grudge.”

Jesus in St. Matthew’s Gospel gently but firmly lets us know who we are, and therefore what is expected of us. “You are the salt of the earth— don’t lose your savor.” “You are the light of the world” —don’t hide it. “Your light must shine before others . . .that they see your good deeds . . . and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Then comes a list of “You have heard . . . but I say to you.” “You shall not kill” = don’t even be angry or call names. “An eye for an eye” = offer no resistance to the evil one. “Struck on the right cheek”? = turn the other one. “Takes your tunic? = offer your cloak as well. “Love your neighbor but hate your enemy”? = love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. “Do not commit adultery” = Don’t even look lustfully.  Jesus assures us that we are to take the commandments seriously. Obey them and teach them; be more righteous than the self-righteous leaders. Whatever causes us to sin should be discarded, figuratively your eye, your hand. “Better than to have your whole body go to [hell].

St. Paul in his Epistle wants to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He stresses the wisdom of God and that we’re fools if we think we are wise. “The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” He then intones: “We speak a wisdom to those who are mature.”

Are we mature enough to hear it? As we get ready for Lent the end of the month, might we need a mulligan or a do-over on our already broken New Years’ resolutions? The prophet Joel cites God pleading, “Return to me with your whole heart.” “Gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness.” This is a good time for us. God says, “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation

“I helped you.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

Terry Schulte, MASL