Wisdom is a Gift of the Holy Spirit. One of 7 Gifts that comes from the Holy Spirit of God. It says in Proverbs:
Proverbs 9:10 ”Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….”
A concept that is lost on today’s secular society. Whom do you fear?
One of my Lenten practices was to set aside time upon rising each day to devote to prayer and Bible readings. Which readings? That was simply solved by following the daily readings on the Catholic Church calendar. It has always been comforting to me that the same Old Testament and New Testament readings are read and prayed each day in Catholic Churches around the world. We are all on the same page…. Well for at least an hour of church service, aka, the Mass.
It was by meditating on today’s readings from the Old Testament, to the New Testament, and through the Gospel that I could see today’s world in a broader and deeper way.
The first reading was from Ezekiel 37:21-28. This reading alone could be mediated on for hours. Promises that God would bring his people together as one and never divided into two again. But it gets better. He also promises one prince, one shepherd! Now I am no theologian, so when I meditate, I ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit and do not go too far into deep water. In a simple manner, I find myself finding relevance when applying these readings to today’s world.
Reading of God’s promises and hope that he is giving his people Israel, is quite inspiring and at the same time depressing. For we know how God was ignored, and still is. But we know the “rest of the story.” We know he sends a redeemer. (Himself in the flesh)
The reading continues with more promises…God will make a covenant of peace with his people. He will multiply them and put his sanctuary among them forever. He even repeats the part about the sanctuary being set up among them forever, a second time. Note to self: What sanctuary? The only one I know is the one at my church. Where the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated and where Jesus resides, body, blood, soul, and divinity in every tabernacle, in every Catholic Church around the world. Is this the one that came to fruition that is being mentioned?
The daily reading continues with the Psalm reading. This one read of God gathering Israel back to himself, guarding them as a shepherd. Turning mourning into joy.
Then comes the verse before the Gospel in Ezekiel
Ezekiel 18:31, “Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.“
Wow! What a gift! Forgiveness and a second chance (with repentance).
Now in the Gospel of John: The chief priests and Pharisees get together to try and figure out what to do with Jesus.
John 11: 45-56 “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas who was high priest that year said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation many not perish”. He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So, from that day on they planned to kill him.
So, Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town call Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jew was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area,” What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”
Ok, that is a lot to absorb. On a human level, the Jews plotting to kill Jesus may think they are doing their people a favor by getting rid of Jesus, afraid that he will divide them. But is that their only motive? Perhaps they fear the loss of power. Jesus knew their hearts. Were they more concerned with their material possessions, their land and nation, than admitting that Jesus was fulfilling the scripture they knew so well? They were not paying attention to God’s promises, and yet they served His purpose, albeit unwittingly.
And when we look at the history of the church, do we not see division coming up again and again, until there are literally hundreds of Christian denominations when God said He only wanted one?
These readings follow a timeline that leads to Holy week, the Passover, the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Today’s reading ends with the Jews wondering aloud if Jesus will come out to the feast of Passover. Little did they know he would have the Passover feast to end all Passovers. Or at least change them. For the Passover meal becomes the sacrifice of the Mass in the Catholic Church. There, Jesus is brought to us by the consecrated words and hands of the priest and becomes our Bread of Life in the Holy Eucharist.
Back to the Old Testament reading, where God says he will put his sanctuary among them forever. In every Catholic Church you will find a red lamp near the Tabernacle where Jesus resides in the Holy Eucharist. This lamp is always lit, standing for the Light of Christ. It is called the Sanctuary Candle. Two thousand years have passed since Jesus’ resurrection and those sanctuaries where Jesus resides, in the tabernacles, are still here. The sanctuary candle is lit 24/7, except Good Friday, when it is extinguished. It is re-lit at the Easter Vigil. Jesus promised Peter the disciple who He gave the keys of the church to, that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church.
Where do all these thoughts lead me to, when I see the state of the world today? I see a divided church, not only of different denominations, but within denominations. I see a very divided society of secularists and religious. The religious appear to be in the minority, or maybe it is their silence that makes it seem so. Either way, we are in a danger zone. Satan is having a field day. We are not only divided but scared to speak the truth, which is right where Satan wants us. Relativism has replaced Truth. Cowardness is covered by silence, excused by being nonjudgmental.
As we go through the Holy week readings, we will see the praise and glorifying of Jesus on Palm Sunday, only to see mere days later, His apparent humiliation and tortuous death. Is that what we are afraid of? Humiliation? Of societal death (being cancelled)? Of standing out in the crowd for being different? For speaking the truth? Poor Simon has the cross thrust upon him when Jesus can no longer handle the weight. Have we had to carry anything that heavy yet for His sake? Will we?
Matthew 26: 41 ” Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”