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The Good News for February 17, 2018

Saturday after Ash Wednesday (222)

Jesus saw an official known as Levi—someone entrusted with tax collecting—sitting at his government post. Jesus told him, “Follow me.” Leaving his life behind, he stood up and began following him. This Levi organized a fine reception for Him in his own home; a large crowd of fellow tax collectors and others joined them at the meal. Some religious leaders—Pharisees—and their Secretaries complained to his followers, “Why are you eating and drinking alongside tax collectors and notorious people?” Jesus replied, “Healthy people do not require a physician; sick ones do. I haven’ come to call to repentance people who are all right—but people with something wrong—sinners.” (Luke 5)

If, every day, you examine yourself and discover new faults, shortcomings, possible improvements there—the greater peace and joy you can have. That is the paradox, the surprise and reward of committing yourself in faith to God’s world, to the majesty of fellow humans, to respect and learning from others.

Note Jesus initiates this pull, this tug of heart drawing a sinner towards Him. He sees a person whose character is stereotyped as publicly awful—a man in the hire of occupying Romans, someone whose job is hateful tax collecting, an occupation associated with people greedy, amoral, and—worst of all in our day and age!—a politician!!

Note the contradiction—the Gospel says explicitly he “left everything”—but he has home and wealth enough to provide a big reception.

The Gospel is not a history book. It is telling you and me here to start a new life, a change of heart in which we live admitting our faults. Yes, the more we admit our need for improvement—for the Presence of the spirit of Jesus—the more we share the table of the Lord.
“Righteous people” refers here clearly to “self-righteous”—some persons who do the right things, who follow external rules, and who look down on others to question why they are deviants—their “self-flawless” conformity makes them think of themselves as “the good guys.” You do not feel that way. You recognize the common pool of “human” in which we sinners all swim, the common table of Creation where we find nourishment, and above all that we do not condemn one another, but, in prayer, love one another, care for the “least” (whatever, in your life, that may mean). This Good News is the tug by the Spirit to see each other as common family.

Good News for the Day, February 18, 2018

First Sunday of Lent (23)

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1)

The opening words suggest a picture—that of a gust of wind blowing a person out of civilization—a tumbleweed or kite under the control of something strong and moving. Jesus has just been baptized (by John), and is filled with a New Attitude, a Sacred Spirit, a life-breath that is no longer the “same-old, same-old.” No, He is starting a New Life. Into an uninhabited place Jesus goes—is driven by the changes within Him—the Spirit which has enveloped and embraced him.

Jesus is tested off there by himself. Other Gospels report three temptations—to work a miracle for his own benefit (rocks into bread), to force a miracle from God as proof of his specialness (jumping off the corner of the temple into the Kedron Valley), and honoring the “world” and its values as the point of living (worshiping Satan). No reporter was there—and we recognize these as basic human temptations; we accept, with Jesus, our commonness—our common humanity of service that honors God, and God’s creation—not the “way of the world.”

Next, “Angels”—the forces of nature and of humanity which God sends—came to sustain him in his faith, his role, his growth in understanding His mission.

He leaves the lonely, harsh rocks of the desert to return to his own folks in green Galilee—calling everybody to change their way of life so as to welcome the New Era—the realm of what is right, the “kingdom of God.”

This arc of events—the presence of the new spirit, the consequent loneliness, the wrestling (like Jacob) with deep issues, then, reflectiveness and a closeness to God’s world (angels) and finally a return to “his job”—offers a snapshot of you and me.

That same Spirit causes us to confront ourselves in loneliness of heart and soul—a kind of desert. There we wrestle with our own form of the world’s seductions, desires and hungers. Awakening to angels sent to “minister” to us, you and I come forth fortified to announce by what we do a new life, a belonging that is such a gift; we grow and keep growing in humility and power, love and loss, patience and rage, wonder and faith—the deep mystery of faith which welcomes people into re-birth.

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