Some thirty years ago, I remember going with my parents to the wake of a family friend. Minutes after we paid our respects to the deceased and sat down, I knew that something was wrong. I could feel the divide in the room. The deceased’s daughter and her family sat on one side of the room; the deceased’s two sons and their families sat on the other side of the room. Hostility was in the air. I later learned that the deceased felt that his two sons were irresponsible and had left only a small part of his estate to them and their families. The major part went to his daughter and her family. His estate was considerable. The two sons felt wronged. They never spoke to their sister and her family again even though the three families lived within walking distance. The three siblings are now deceased themselves but the cousins do not communicate. In fact the hostilities and jealousies have been passed on to a third generation that was not even born when their great grand father died. Jealousy and its consequences can be passed on from generation to generation.
Today’s first reading from Chapter 37 of the Book of Genesis tells us about the jealousy that Joseph’s brother harbored against him. “Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age …” They “hated him so much that they would not even greet him.” They plotted against him and when the opportunity came, they sold him into slavery.
Jealousy can lead to hatred and hateful actions: sometimes to hostilities in families; sometimes to hateful actions. Lent is a good time to examine ourselves and address whatever jealousy we find in our hearts. Like the psalmist, may we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God!”
This morning, I spent time with Jeremiah 17:5-10.
Speaking through the mouth of the prophet, the Lord says, “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” I certainly can’t! I have taken many courses in pastoral care and counseling. I have nearly fifty years of working with women and men; of listening to countless stories of human anguish and longing. I come face to face with mystery…in the lives of so many struggling people and in my own life. I can only stand in awe of the human condition.
Jeremiah continues, “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart …” God alone knows us inside out. We can’t handle our inner conflicts by ourselves. God can and God will if we turn our will and our lives over to Him.
Today’s Gospel, Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a, focuses in on a key man in the story of redemption: Joseph, the husband of Mary and the legal father of Jesus. He is described as “a righteous man.”
We know the story. Joseph and Mary are betrothed to each other. They were considered to be married already according to Jewish customs of the day; however, Joseph had not yet brought Mary to his home to live with him. The marriage was not consummated. Joseph was no doubt shocked to learn that Mary was pregnant. A righteous man, he decided to divorce her quietly rather than subject her to law which could mean death by stoning. “Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her…'”
This message of the angel defied reason. He did not understand, but he trusted the Lord and; therefore, he brought Mary into his home, and the story of redemption continued to unfold. The key word is trust. He trusted the Lord in the face of the seemingly impossible. None of us will ever find ourselves in Joseph’s sandals, but all of us, at one time or another, will find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations. We will be asked to trust the Lord. The Lord is with us and will never walk away from us!
There are all kinds of false Voices in our world telling us how we ought to live: gurus, “prophets,” self-appointed preachers, politicians, journalists, self-absorbed educators, entertainers …. myriads of voices telling us that they have the answers to life’s issues. In today’s Gospel, Luke 9:28b-36, Luke tells us that THE CREATING VOICE: GOD points to His Son, Jesus, and says: THIS IS MY CHOSEN SON; LISTEN TO HIM. He is the Voice of Truth and Life and Light, the only One who can teach us how to live a worthwhile life and who can lead us to Eternal Life. JESUS – THERE IS NO OTHER!
In today’s Gospel, Matthew 5:43-48, we hear those difficult words from the mouth of Jesus, “but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you …”
Love my enemies? Not easy! … for any of us. Important to know what is meant by “love your enemies.” Jesus is not saying that we have to be the best of friends with our enemies. What He is saying is that we have to be just with our enemies. We have to pray for them that they may have good lives and become the people that God wishes them to be. This requires not only right words but right actions on our part.