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March 14, Irechukwu, SJ - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

Tuesday, Second Week of Lent

March 14, 2017

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20; Matthew 23:1-12

by *Fr. Alexander Irechukwu, S.J.

"Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool." (Isa. 1:18) In this text of Isaiah's prophecy, we come upon one of the best known and best loved lines of scripture. Reading it, we may imagine God coming down to our level, so to speak, putting his loving hand on out shoulder and assuring us of his endless mercy. Speaking these words to the Israelites, Isaiah sought to engender true repentance in them, one made possible only by humility, the kind shown by God who comes down to theirs and our level.

Humility is a crucial virtue for true repentance and right relationship with a God who is humble. Jesus underscores this truth by inviting his followers to lead lives of humility warning them as he did against following the example of the Scribes and Pharisees, their religious teachers and leaders, who were notoriously proud, considering themselves, on the one hand, as the be-all and end-all of the Jewish people, and on the other, regarding themselves indispensable to their well-being. In their pride, rooted on a false sense of self, the Scribes and Pharisees abused their position of authority designed for service making it one of domination designed for selfish gains.

Jesus' warning is apt for us today as our world both political and ecclesial is rife with Scribe-like and Pharisee-like teachers and leaders. Indeed, ours is a world where men and women in position of authority lead lives of excessive pride and arrogance so much as to abuse their authority by dominating and intimidating those they are obliged to serve.

These kinds of political and ecclesial figures persist in our world because many among us subscribe to their cult, following in their footsteps and examples, against the stark warnings of Jesus and the outstanding example of his life. We subscribe to the cult of the kind of political and ecclesial figures Jesus warns us against by celebrating them when we ought not to and failing to challenge them when we ought. We follow in their footsteps and examples when we consider ourselves at our various posts in life better than others and superior to them thereby looking down on them and discriminating against them.

Following in Jesus' example, we, his disciples are charged not only to shun pride but also to lovingly and graciously call out those among us who indulge in it, hence helping them overcome this malicious and dreadful vice by which they risk the company of the Lord and the exaltation which he promises those who demonstrate authentic humility.

As we continue our Lenten journey mindful of the significance of humility to our life and discipleship as Christians, may we rid ourselves of every element of pride that has corrupted our life, families, communities, church, nations and world opening ourselves and every facet of our life to the experience of God's love and mercy as we listen to and hear the beautiful words of Isaiah which he spoke on behalf of Yahweh: "Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool."

*Fr. Alexander Irechukwu, SJ, is a graduate student in Interdisciplinary Education at Santa Clara University, California, United States of America.


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