Following Jesus With Heart and Soul
The words of Jesus to the Pharisees in today’s Gospel are very strong: “…you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” Somehow they had interpreted his words to mean that Jesus was going to commit suicide and go to hell where they as “righteous” people could not follow. Wrong! What we have is a case of supreme irony: in fact, Jesus would lay down his life in sacrifice, passing to the glory of heaven – while the self-righteous Pharisees could not experience heaven because of their sins.
Time and again the Gospels tell us that Jesus came in love to call sinners: tax collectors, people caught in adultery… wayward souls of all types who suffer because of their sinfulness. Jesus was stern with the Pharisees because they had taken the heart and spirit out of religion; they thought their salvation was guaranteed because of their descent from Abraham; religion was reduced to mere hypocritical observance of a multiplicity of minute regulations. In fact the Pharisees had become complacent and saw themselves as beyond the message of Jesus.
As we move into the homestretch of Lent, with the solemn celebrations of the Paschal Triduum ahead of us, we are encouraged to open ourselves to renewed hearts and souls, awakened to the power of God’s mercy and love, and challenged to witness our faith in our contemporary world. It’s prime time to review our faith lives. What about your Lenten prayer, your penitential practices, your acts of charity that were part of your initial Ash Wednesday fervor? Have we become lethargic or complacent, or perhaps more involved with complaints about our current conditions or the things we don’t have? Do we take Jesus for granted? It’s time to move on…
Jesus is the Master Evangelist! He comes to save us from ourselves and share with us the beauty of God’s infinite love. May these concluding days of Lent prompt an even deeper renewal of our faith, and a heartfelt, burning desire to share this Good News with our world!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is a member of the Passionist community in Chicago, Illinois.