Daily Homily: The Kingdom Of God Has Come Upon You

Third Week of Lent, Thursday

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Jeremiah 7:23-28
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Luke 11:14-23

In Scripture and in prayer we hear the Voice of the Lord and the Word of God. If we hear this voice, which indicates to us the path of life, God asks that we do not harden our hearts like the people of Israel in the desert at Meribah and Massah.

The episode of Meribah and Massah (Exodus 17:1-7) is recalled in today’s psalm. This was when the people murmured against Moses, the servant of the Lord, and put the Lord to the test. The people have left the slavery of Egypt and are on their way to Mount Sinai, where they will enter into a covenant with the Lord. Due to the lack of water, they begin to find fault with Moses and start to doubt and despair. Even though the Word of God has been communicated to them through Moses and even though God has worked wonders in their presence (the plagues, the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, the crossing of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, etc.) they harden their hearts to God’s message of salvation.

Likewise, in the Book of Jeremiah, God accuses the people of rejecting the message given to them through the prophets. God’s plea is simple: «Listen to my voice». This is because obedience to the Word of God leads to communion with him: «I will be your God and you shall be my people». The prophets serve the Lord by showing us the face of God and the path we have to take. A prophet is one who points out the path to the true Exodus, to God. Prophets translate «faith into the everyday life of a community before God and on the way to him» (J. Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, 4).

Hardness of heart and rejecting God’s word are on display in the Gospel, as there are three different reactions to the exorcism. The first group are far from God and accuses Jesus of siding with the devil, with Beelzebul, the prince of demons. They reject the manifestation of the power of God and attribute this power to the devil. The second group are those in the middle. They test Jesus, like the people of Israel in the desert, and demand another heavenly sign. The third group are those in the crowd who are sincerely amazed by the exorcism and long to be with Jesus and gather with Jesus. The third group has the fundamental traits of an apostle: being with Jesus, spending time in his presence, listening to his word; and being sent out to gather the lost sheep with Jesus.

Today’s readings call to mind the meditation on the two standards in Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius invites his listeners to meditate on Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord, who calls all men and women to join him under his standard in Jerusalem, and on Lucifer, who tempts men and women to join him under his standard in Babylon. The devil, the false captain, is seated in a chair of smoke and fire and sends demons out to all parts of the world. He tells them how to tempt people with a desire for riches, earthly honors and pride. Christ, on the other hand, is present in a great and beautiful field. He chooses apostles and disciples and sends them throughout the world to spread his doctrine of mercy and salvation to all parts of the world. Christ does not offer his followers riches, honors or pride (which lead to death), but rather poverty, contempt of the world, and humility (which lead to life).

God will do wondrous things in us and through us. He will replace our hearts of hardened stone with a heart of flesh. Our hearts will be softened by God’s love and grace. And so, we ask him today that he dwell in us, that we choose the victorious standard of Christ and reject the evil standard of the devil. We pray that he reign in our lives and that he send us out as his apostles and prophets.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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