Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows worldwide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
‘My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Mitzraim/land of oppression with a small household and lived there as an alien, but there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to Kyrie, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry. He saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
The readings for this First Sunday of Lent should give us pause. Our founding principles as a nation and our Judean Christian principles are very much the same. We were rescued from over there to over here. God calls us to remember our rescue and the blessings he gives us.
Our second reading has St. Paul allude to Deuteronomy 30. “What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith that we preach.” This comes from Deuteronomy 30, “Kyrie your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love Kyrie, your God, with your whole heart and your whole being, in order that you may live…this command I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?’ No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.
Some argue that when we see repulsive people we are naturally repulsed and so we should avoid those people. That is not the way of St. Francis or Pope Francis. They teach us that if we look behind all the faults of the person before us, and that nasty smell, some do have that nasty smell, and the ragged clothes, and the drug needles… we will see the image of God. The word of God is not in our head. It is in our heart. Circumcising the heart means learning to have compassion on those who do all the nasty things we abhor. It means loving people, not because of who they are, but sometimes in spite of who they are. Why, because they are fellow brothers and sisters. They are nation/people born together, by common heritage if not blood, place of birth, language…
In learning the art of writing, we learned to have a nice, snappy, introduction, follow it by a thesis statement, and then give the body of our paper. In Matthew and Luke, the nativity stories are that snappy introduction. For the thesis statement Mark tells us, “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”
Mark loves to say, “At once,” with everything. Then comes his thesis statement, “he remained in the desert forty days, tempted by Satan. He was with the Chai (from the Hebrew/living beings) and messengers/angels, ministered to him. Matthew simply states of his thesis statement, “Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.”
This is their thesis statement. The rest of the book is about Jesus was tempted by Satan/the Devil, with wealth, power, and temptations to tempt God. Luke drops this thesis statement in favor of, “The Spirit of Kyrie is upon me. He anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to Kyrie.” This is the message of the New Colossus and the Statue of Liberty. This is the message of our second reading. In I Kings 17:19-21 we read, “Elijah told her, “Give me your son.” Taking him from her lap, he carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. He called out to Kyrie: “Kyrie, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times and he called out to Kyrie: “Kyrie, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.”
This way of healing only appears in one other passage in all of Scripture. This relates to the woman of Zarephath, who Jesus mentions just after our Gospel reading. The other place this type of healing is used? It is just after Jesus mentions this woman, when Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law. The Gospel is very near to us. It is about healing. It is about loving God by taking care of his planet, whether we like it, or know it, or not. It is loving everything in God’s planet, sometimes in spite of who the person in front of us is. We love them and care for them because they are God’s creation, not because of what they did or might do. For anything less, we need to repent.
We love God with all of our hearts, animate being and measure. Government is but one more tool in our arsenal for doing this. Some argue our charity should be through the government. They have best view for knowing how to do this. They are wrong. Some argue taxing us to feed our neighbor is wrong. This is also against Catholic teaching. God calls us to use all of our resources. This includes the government, but a whole lot more. It includes all of our resource.
This is the thesis of the Gospel, and this is what God commands us to do. Are we up to the task?