The final lines of Sunday’s Gospel are packed with meaning: “(Jesus) did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.”
It’s because of that understanding that Jesus chose not to trust certain people who were out to “get him.” On the flip side, it’s because of his understanding of human nature that Jesus is so extraordinarily compassionate and understanding.
The season of Lent, now in its third week, offers us plenty of opportunity to learn about the compassion of Jesus. However, for many people that learning experience is short-circuited because of the emphasis on “what I am giving up for Lent.” Lent is not about you or me. It’s about freeing ourselves from all the inner and outer stuff of our lives, all the “should’s, ought’s and must’s” that we inflict on ourselves and others so that we have a greater ability to experience God’s compassion and mercy.
So, at the end of this forty day journey, the goal is not how many sacrifices I made, but how free I have become. We’ll know this tree by its fruit. Who in my family is sensing that I’m less angry or selfish? Who senses I’m softer and more compassionate? Who would say that I’m seeming to be more generous and self-sacrificing? Ultimately, how have I grown in compassion for the poor and those on the margins of society? How have I thought about being their advocate in helping dismantle the unjust social structures which bind them in poverty and despair? What is different in my behavior, and shows how I’ve cooperated with grace? What is going to last?
We can never be free by focusing solely on what we do or don’t do. We can only be free by comprehending what God is doing for us and through us by the grace of Jesus and the Spirit. Note how the first three of the Ten Commandments reinforce that: focus on God, and that will in turn affect your behavior (the remaining 7 commandments).
Thank you for being you!!