Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Lent 2020: "They Look, but They Don't See"

"This generation is an evil generation."

How those words from Jesus ring loud and clear across the centuries. Can there be any doubt that a people who call themselves Christians, yet scoff at the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the migrant and cheer on war and the eye-for-eye retribution of the death penalty, foster evil in their hearts? They preach Christ but do not do what he says.

Some things never change, alas, and Jesus rebuked the people who wanted a sign from God before they would humbly change their ways and believe. Jesus likens the crowds before him to the people of Nineveh, who repented when they heard Jonah preaching to them -- yet the crowds gathered around Jesus had "one greater than Jonah" before them, and still they stubbornly clung to their ways.

We might chuckle at the prideful hard-headedness of the crowds assembled before Jesus, wondering how they could fail to see what was right before their eyes. Yet if Jesus came back to the world today, preaching his same Gospel in defense of the weak and powerless and challenging the violence of the ruling authorities and the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, do we seriously think most right-wing evangelical Christians would rush to embrace him? If the current tone of the U.S. political discussion is any indication, his loudest followers would deride him as a socialist and an enabler of lazy freeloaders.

Just last night I encountered someone on social media who said real Christians would never support Bernie Sanders because Paul said that if you don't work, you don't eat. What do you even say to such hardness of heart, such blindness to the mercy and charity Jesus preaches all throughout the four Gospels? The point isn't that Bernie Sanders represents the teachings of Christ -- though he comes a lot closer than most of those on the political right -- but that when you have laid plainly out before you, in sacred scripture, Jesus' admonition to embrace the poor, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the powerless, the forgotten, and all those on the margins of society, and then you bash the same people he told you to embrace, then you aren't getting it any more than the crowds gathered before Jesus did.

Granted, sometimes people need a sign to help them sort out their way in life. I wandered through the spiritual desert for a good 15 years before I could come back home to my Christian roots with a new and deeper understanding of the heart of the Gospel. And I couldn't have done it without a sign from Blessed Mother Mary. Hers is the only obvious sign I've ever received in all my years of searching, and her message to me, without speaking a word, was very clear, in regard to the love that awaited me and where she wanted me to be. So I don't discount the importance of embracing our spiritual intuition that might just give us a nudge when we need it. The problem is when the signs are clear and we ignore them. Sure, sometimes we simply don't notice them, but often we simply choose not to listen because our own pride makes us want to ignore any uncomfortable prodding from the Spirit that we might need to reassess and change our ways.

And changing our ways is what the Lenten season is all about. It's our chance to do some hard self-examination, reset, pick up our cross, and do the will of God: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord.

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