Saturday, 4 March 2017

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Readings: Isaiah 58:9-14; Psalm 86; Luke 5:27-32

A first thought: the category 'righteous' is empty (or at least has just one member) and so the call to repentance is universal: it is for 'the many', 'the generality', 'humankind'.

A second thought: Luke adds that the sinners are called to 'repentance', metanoia. So it is not just a case of saying, 'ah sure aren't we all sinners and isn't God good'. There is a call to follow Jesus, to change our lives by being with him. The tax-collectors and sinners know they need his presence, the Pharisees do not realise this need.

A third thought: let's reverse the question so that it is not 'why are you eating with tax-collectors and sinners' but 'why are tax-collectors and sinners eating with you'? Does it make any difference? Is the change too subtle to mean anything? Here is the difference: that we see sin and evil in relation to good, not the other way round. Our point of reference is not the bad and how we might avoid it (or them) but is the good and how we might lose it (or them) - or Him.

A fourth thought: fasting and praying, two of the works of Lent, could be done in a way that is just personal and private, concerned with the cultivation of my own soul. This is easy to see in the case of fasting. As regards prayer St James warns us that we can ask wrongly, where we ask in order to spend God's gifts on our passions. Almsgiving obliges us to look outside ourselves and presents us with this question: 'what boundaries do I set for my world'? We cannot share our bread with the hungry without opening to a bigger world than that of our own ego, even if (especially if) it is an ego that aspires to being 'spiritual' or even 'holy'.

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