Thursday, March 11, 2010

If Today You Hear His Voice, Harden Not Your Hearts!

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Reading I
Jeremiah 7:23-28
Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God
and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left
the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks
and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 95
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
+++    +++    +++    +++   
Luke 11:14-23
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said,
“By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Today’s Psalm refrain is haunting, but what does it mean for us? Would we really “harden” our hearts, and not listen to God? Or is it true that not listening and not acting on what the “voice” says is what actually happens in the heat and hurry of our everyday lives?

In today’s first reading Jeremiah says the Lord has said “Listen to my voice,” but people don’t listen. With all the distractions from our technologies, diversions, responsibilities and escapes, we don’t have enough time or focus to even think of God. We don’t stop to praise or thank God in the good moments, and when we mutter “Lord, help me!” or “God, why me?” when bad things happen, too often we’re still not listening. Just when we need to be open-hearted, willing to listen, our world-worn hearts are crusted over and untouchable – hard!

In the Gospel Jesus knows people around him are not “listening” to what it means that he can drive out demons and free a man from his disability. He says “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” What I notice is that it’s not enough to passively have faith / be baptized / call myself Christian. We not only “are,” we “do.” The faith, the baptism, the being Christian has to be active, and acted upon – and that means daily, in each day. Now.

We’re not always and everywhere hard-hearted. Love of God and Love of Neighbor keep showing up in our human lives. For example, I’ve been “heartened” by the response from all over the United States and from many other nations to the situation in Haiti after the recent massive earthquake. With news broadcasts of the catastrophic damage were also reminders of how our government and service agencies, and teams from other nations were responding, and how individuals could at least contribute some money. Creighton University was especially fortunate in already having programs on the island; thus Creighton was able to get a series of medical personnel teams and supplies almost immediately to an area of great chaos and devastation. Meanwhile, fundraising results were “heartening,” as so many people wanted to do something to support the ongoing work among the collapsed buildings, the survivors and the thousands of seriously injured. In Haiti and every other nation, there is never a lack of need and never can all needs be met. Yet humans are sometimes surprisingly generous, whether supporting the bake sale or benefit dinner, snowplowing a neighbor’s driveway, or mailing checks to fund drives and agency appeals.

Yet I am truly haunted by the last line in this Gospel passage: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” As readers of this Reflection, you’re trying to listen to His Voice. Meanwhile, let me tell you, I’m on my slightly arthritic or comfortably metaphoric knees praying for today: “Lord, keep me from scattering. Let whatever I do today gather with You.”
Mary Haynes Kuhlman
Theology Department
Creighton University Daily Reflections


Sarah in the tent said...

'And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?'

Is Satan actually divided against himself? There is something schizoid about being a liar: one tells a lie while knowing the truth; or one lies some of the time and then tells the truth at other times. Lying often goes with mental health problems. I also find it odd how truthful and obedient the evil spirits are when Our Lord expels them!

Satan is also called a murderer. Seeking to murder could be seen as a twisted recognition of the power of life.

Life and truth are absolutes. Murder and lies depend on the existence of life and truth, so Satan could be seen as undermining his own foundations.

The sign of Christ's church is oneness. Perhaps division can be seen as one of Satan's signs? (But also as a sign that his kingdom cannot stand - so maybe even division within the church can be seen as a sign of hope?)

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah asks, "Is Satan actually divided against himself?"
The answer to this question is implied in Jesus' question: "If Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?"

Sarah, your comments about lying being schizoid is the key to the answer of your question. A liar is someone who knows the truth but says something contrary to the truth. Someone who says something untrue believing that it is true is not a liar, but simply mistaken. Saying things that are untrue often goes along with mental health problems; but again, someone with a psychological disorder is telling an untruth, but not lying, because a lie is a deliberate untruth told with the intention to deceive.

It is not surprising that the evil spirits are "truthful and obedient" when Jesus rebukes and expels them. Their power to deceive -- and, for that matter, their very existence -- depends on God's creative power and His providence. When Jesus says, "Begone" to the evil spirits that possessed the fellow tending the pigs at Gerasa, they begged him to send them into the pigs. They knew his power.

Division is indeed a sign of Satan's presence in our world -- but it is first of all a sign that our human nature is imperfect: We tend to want what pleases us at the given moment, rather than to what pleases God. The tempters prompt us to move in that direction, hoping that we will fall from grace. But, as you said, Satan's kingdom will not stand. Division with the Church, and division within oneself can indeed be seen as "a sign of hope". Our hope -- and our help --is in the Lord, who created us, and calls us to perfection, which we will not achieve in this world but, with God's help, when we are called into the next - the eternal Kingdom.