Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; Mark 2:13-25
Here is a question for you: What, in your opinion, is the biggest enemy of a truly spiritual life?
If you said pride you would be right, because pride is the source of all our other spiritual woes. But then what would your second answer be? I am inviting you to think about this in terms of your opinion, which, naturally enough, will vary from person to person.
Lent is a good time for this kind of examination because it calls on us to examine ourselves; our own spiritual lives, our own relationship with the Lord.
Most likely your answer will involve one or other of the seven capital sins apart from pride: avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth but I’m thinking of a common human attribute, not in itself a sin, which can prevent a spiritual life from truly flourishing with devastating effectiveness and that is – a bad memory!
We forget our morning and evening prayers. We forget holy days of obligation. We forget not to eat meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We forget the sins we need to confess. We forget how many beers we’ve had. And we forget who we are and who is watching us every minute of the day.
Why do you think so many people don’t keep their Lenten resolutions? Do they decide one day that they no longer want to be good? Do they say: ‘I’m sick of trying to be good; I think from now on I will just be bad.’ Not at all!
We are like the chief cup bearer whom Joseph helped and then asked him for a favour in return (Gn 40:23): But the chief cup-bearer did not remember Joseph: he forgot him.
God, however, never forgets his people: I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, enslaved by the Egyptians and have remembered my covenant (Ex 6:5).
With ten great miracles the Jews were set free from slavery in Egypt. With an even greater miracle they crossed the Red Sea. The Lord fed them with bread from heaven and water from the rock and sent quails so that they might have meat. But when Moses went up the mount to receive the ten commandments, and then took his time coming back, the People forgot their God and worshipped a calf of gold.
It was always Moses’ big fear that the people would simply ‘forget’ and he constantly exhorted them to remember:
- Remember how Yahweh your God dealt with Pharaoh and all Egypt (Ex 7:18).
- Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children's children (Dt 4:9).
- Take care therefore not to forget the covenant which Yahweh your God has made with you... (Dt 4:23).
- Be sure that if you forget Yahweh your God, if you follow other gods, if you serve them and bow down before them - I warn you today - you will most certainly perish (Dt 8:19).
- Remember; never forget how you provoked Yahweh your God in the wilderness (Dt 9:7).
- The Israelites no longer remembered Yahweh their God, who had rescued them from all the enemies round them (Jgs 8:34).
Do you believe the Pharisees maliciously decided to turn the temple court into a market place? No, they simply forget that it was part of the house of God.
There are three other things we forget and would do well to remember at this time of Lent:-
- our death, our judgment and our final destiny – heaven or hell.
- that suffering is part of our calling. It takes us by surprise and we blame God for it. It bowls us over and we forget the Crucified One, the innocent Christ.
- God has the power to save, to overcome, to recreate and place the victory in our hands.