Home Index ... Lenten meditation index ... EYE on Iraq Escalation ... Lenten entrance page

Change your ways.

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

by Robert Waldrop

Friday, March 6

Readings: Ezekial 18:21-28, Psalm 130, Matthew 5:20-26

Sometimes we like to tell ourselves, or the world whispers in our ear, or satan lays out a temptation, "Well, generally you are a good person. So it doesn't really matter if you yell at a sales clerk every once in a while. You're covered." But Ezekial, with his customary tact, doesn't quite see it that way. The stories of one's life are important, but the experience we have of God is in the "now", the "leading edge" of the process of time and eternity that we experience both temporally and spiritually. Sin sets up discontinuities and structures that harm our relationships with God and our neighbor. Sometimes it even destroys them. Even in this destruction, however, there is a message of hope. By His stripes and wounds, we are healed and brought to wholeness, peace, light, joy. Says the Lord God, Do I not rather rejoice when the wicked turn from their evil ways that they may live?

Now Jesus is talking. What's he saying? Don't kill, but now he asks about our anger? Maybe even our use of abusive language and/or power games? (Man, woman, why did you call that poor waitress a fool because the cook made a mistake on your order?) How much good is He expecting if He is asking us to experience righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees? And there He goes again, using that command imperative verb form: go and be reconciled.

I'm not sure if here we're talking as much about "X quantity of good deeds" as we are about a relationship of openness to the grace and providence of God's action in one's life. We cooperate actively in our common experience of the grace of building the Reign of God as a "real-time relationship" for all humanity. The emphasis is on: not as a pious platitude, but live and in color, something that has concrete objective results, e.g. fewer hungry people, less crime, and more justice. Dorothy Day once said, quoting St. Catherine of Siena, "All the way to heaven is heaven." And it's important -- Ezekial is totally clear on this point -- that since we started this journey, we stay with it until it's finished. If we jump off before we get There, we miss the point. The life of conversion, or re-creation in Christ Jesus, doesn't stop.

Actions that we once did without thinking, we now avoid. Or perhaps we do them differently, more intentionally -- as if things mattered, because they do. Actions that once we would not have considered doing, we now embrace. We who once were far away have now been brought close by the Blood of the Cross. Nothing will ever be the same again for us. People will notice.

It's a breaking through -- at some point looking up from the soup line and asking, "Just why is it that 250 people are coming to dinner here every day?"

This is probably a lot to read out of, or perhaps, read in to, today's readings. But sometimes God's word takes us in surprising directions.

Prayer intentions today:

+ For those who may be targeted for extermination in Oregon: the elderly poor, those of any age, including children, who are seriously ill and do not have assets or insurance to pay for medical care, the disabled, persons with Alzheimer's disease or other mental problems (news byte from Oregon: the state program that funds indigent medical care will pay for murder by euthanasia, KC Star, 3-3-98).

+ For the Holy Father's intention for March, especially that human rights be respected.

Praxis today:

+ Fast and abstain from meat, be frugal, spend as little money as possible. Put money into your Rice Bowl (or other Lenten offering to feed the poor). Think about having a "spend no money day" at some regular interval. News byte from the Kansas City Star 3-4-98: the leading local supplier of food to food banks, soup kitchens, and other such charities in the greater KC area reports that food donations from the food industry are down 50%, but the need for food is growing.

+ Pick up trash in a public place, as much as you want, anytime today. Be prudent, wear gloves, if you find a hypodermic needle (some people reading this live in neighborhoods where this might be a possibility), dispose of it very carefully.

Home Index ... Lenten meditation index ... EYE on Iraq Escalation ... Lenten entrance page