Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Lectionary: 239

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.

Tradition meant everything to our Jewish ancestors, especially in the time of Christ. Repeatedly conquered from the east and the west, forced to learn foreign languages and use foreign currencies, despised by their governors who preferred the elite society of Rome and Athens, the Pharisees, especially, clung to their traditions. And that was all about the Law of Moses and the prophets.
Jesus was acutely aware of their anxiety but he had to pour new wine into new wineskins. His disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, knew the law and the prophets had been more-than-fulfilled by his passion, death, resurrection and ascension.

We are undergoing similar upheavals in our day. Although our nation is not occupied by a foreign power, our religious traditions are severely challenged by the dominant, secular culture. It’s values are power, individual liberty, consumerism and entertainment. Inevitably, given those values, it is plagued with family disintegration, chronic loneliness and abandonment, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, and suicide.
To live here Christians have had to surrender much of our traditional belief. Reluctantly we admit the universe was not created in seven days, that the Garden of Eden and its inhabitants are mythological, that Noah’s great flood never happened in any historical sense, and – most importantly – Christians cannot determine which values should govern America. Slowly we're coming to grips with the facts that the word God does not appear in the Constitution and the United States was never supposed to be a Christian country.  

As the 21st century breaks over us, Catholics in particular must pour new wine into new wineskins. Many of our old wineskins don't even hold water. 

Personally, I am delighted to celebrate our religious tradition, especially the Mass, recalling that its origins are prehistoric. Catholics throughout the world of every language and many ways of life pray together, united in one communion, regardless of the countries or nations in which they reside. Their first identity, conferred by the Sacrament of Baptism, is in Christ; and secondly, they owe allegiance to differing governments. 

Gratefully, I preside over the ceremony of life and try to articulate each word and each syllable of each word, in the spirit of Jesus who said "not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." 

I have no doubt the Holy Spirit will gather people in prayer a thousand years from now, and even until the end of time. Pouring the wine of the Holy Spirit into new wineskins, they will affirm the faith we pass onto them, that Jesus has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by his death and resurrection. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.