Year A: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6–7, 10–13; Psalm 23:1–3a, 3b–4, 5, 6; Ephesians 5:8–14; John 9:1–41 Year B: 2 Chronicles 36:14–16, 19–23; Psalm 137:1–2, 3, 4–5, 6; Ephesians 2:4–10; John 3:14–21 Year C: Joshua 5:9a, 10–12: Psalm 34:2–3, 4–5, 6–7; 2 Corinthians 5:17–21; Luke 15:1–3, 11–32
Old Testament readings take priority in Lent. Most of the First Readings on weekdays are from the Hebrew Scriptures; the First Reading each Sunday is chosen to recall the story of salvation. The writings of St. Paul, however, also appear on the Sundays of Lent. As I was trying to find a place in this book for the Apostle to the Gentiles, a friend reminded me of how Paul bridges the Old and New Testaments. His theology helps to shape much of our Christian identity.
Paul bookends Lent with his themes. On Ash Wednesday, we read Paul quoting Isaiah, “‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, / and on a day of salvation I have helped you’” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This passage has always heralded for me the start of the lenten journey of penance and conversion.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we hear (in all three cycles) Paul’s great hymn of “emptying” from Philippians. He reminds us: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, / who, though he was in the form of God, / did not regard equality with God / as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, / taking the form of a slave, / being born in human likeness / (Philippians 2:6–7).
This total emptying of the Incarnation, this poverty of God, inspired so many saints, including Francis of Assisi. It is how we are to identify with Christ, Paul tells us. And he goes on to describe Christ’s total obedience in his death on a cross, the destination and climax of our lenten journey, leading to resurrection and glory.
Today’s Action Study one of Paul’s letters in its entirety as a Lenten prayer and reflection.
Jesus, may our attitude be yours. Help us to let go of all that keeps us from life with you. May today for us be a day of salvation. Amen.