Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent | Readings: Luke 9:28-36
These are two hard readings today. The first is from the opening oracle of Isaiah, where he calls the religious establishment in Jerusalem “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and commands them to seek social justice instead of their own advancement. Yet it is not merely to condemn them but to bring them to a new attitude, “Come let us set things right between us. Though your sins be like scarlet (and they are!), I want to make you white as snow,” says Yahweh. How consoling and inviting God is, right after pulling no punches.
Then we see the same pattern in Matthew’s Gospel. This is from Jesus’ diatribe against the religious leadership of his time. Nothing any of us could say today would match Jesus’ anger and judgment on hypocrisy in spiritual leadership and self-serving religious authority. He gets downright nasty with the leaders and mocks their religious fashion show and their unwillingness to “lift a finger to bear the burdens” that they place on other people. He seems to be against all titles that make them think they are higher or better than others, all lessons we could still learn today. I guess things never change.
Yet he ends by calling them to “humility” and promising them that God will do the “exalting.” They do not need to worry about any climbing, self-promoting, or career advancement themselves.
“Search for justice, help the oppressed, hear the orphan’s plea, and defend the widow. . . . Though your sins be crimson red, I will make you white as wool, and you will eat the good things of the land.” —Isaiah 1:17–18
“Their words are bold, but their deeds are few. They bind up heavy loads, hard to carry, to lay on other peoples’ shoulders, while they themselves will not lift a finger to budge them.. . . You are all learners [“brothers”]. . . . The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.” —Matthew 23:3–4, 8, 11
“Humble God, make us like you. You do not lord it over us, but wait patiently for us to change. May we do the same with our brothers and sisters on the journey.”