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“Under the old covenant there were many priests…
–But Christ has an eternal priesthood… “
Responsory, 1st Reading, Office of Readings, 4th Sunday of Lent
The biblical readings this week explicate how to enter paradise (the sanctuary) faithfully –even as it recounts the grumbling and faintheartedness, and so be refreshed with the water gushing forth abundantly for the community and all the life for which they are stewards. The Second Readings show how Lent and the Easter mysteries are just such entry.
Readings from the Book of Leviticus occupy the first three days of the week. They are easy to skip over because they have been read before and they are just a bunch of regulations anyway. Don’t give in to this all too common excuse and false justification. Try to keep in mind that “when all else fails, read the directions!” These codes are instructions to and for a people in the desert –in every sense of the term. We should keep in mind that everything fits together in a proper order –as in the proper order of the components of wholeness. Wholeness reflects the holiness of God especially as the response of God’s people to God’s oneness –the whole people act whole heartedly to the whole assembly including those who are wholly other (aliens). These few readings present an opportunity to hear the story about a holy God and a people who are called to be holy. These instructions should not be confused with the western term law, as in code of ethics. The Levitical code rather adheres to God’s teaching, regulating, instruction and distinguishing a people –-how to go about being wholly holy (love the neighbor as yourself) as God calls creation to be with very specific commandments concerning order in doing.
Numbers is about the people following for forty years these instructions so learning the way into the promised land (paradise flowing with milk and honey). On this desert journey, the precise atonement regulations (don’t think law, rather dimensions of relationship) lead to the Spirit poured out (Wednesday) –Moses says, would that all the people were prophets (those whom the Spirit has come to rest upon), for sight of the promised land (Thursday), for pardon of wickedness (Friday), for healing recovery (Saturday) of those bitten by the curse of sin. From Siani –desert, wandering, faithlessness, learning and discipline, there is a look backward to creation linking creation, Sabbath and desert experience. Lent is just such a link to bind our gripping and connect us with God’s presence in our midst more and more made evident these forty days.
The Second Readings culminate on Friday with Athanasius’ consolation that “this feast guides us through the trials that meet us in this world.” The superlative character of the paschal feast in Saturday’s selection excerpted from the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council is rendered: all human activity is to find it purification in the paschal mystery. “Everything he (our Redeemer) did or suffered was for our salvation,” says Leo the Great (Thursday) bridging the week. Wednesday, Maximus the Confessor, writes of the Lord’s will, call, lesson, goodness itself, and invitation-yoke, as instructions relating these second readings with this week’s biblical readings. Leo the Great on Tuesday gives instructions especially for lent to “make ready the sacrificial offerings of works of mercy,” reaching into last weeks savoring of mercy and aligning it to this week’s Leviticus – Numbers remembrances. Monday, has Origen teaching that Christ is the high priest of atonement for our sins and we must learn “to recognize the blood of the Word.” Sunday’s advice from Augustine presents the unity of the week as he elucidates “the fountain of life… let us do now what he commands” and see Christ as the way of Paradise.
What complaints of yours are keeping you away from hearing the Word of the Lord this Lent?
-how does the Way of Paradise compare with the details of your life?
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