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March 23, Ujah, SJ - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

Thursday, Third Week of Lent

March 23, 2017

Jer 7: 23-28/ Ps 95: 1-2. 6-7. 8-9/ Lk 11: 14-23

By *Fr. Ujah Ejembi, SJ

We have arrived halfway into this great and wonderful season of grace and universal retreat for the whole Church. The Season of Lent is defined by spiritual exercises of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. This exercises are meant to keep alive the consciousness of God and others in our hearts and minds.

Today's gospel narrates an encounter with Jesus leading to liberation. A mute man encountered Jesus and was liberated from his muteness. The reaction of those who witnessed this great act of God's goodness was shocking. It makes us ask the question: "What does the evil one do in the face of goodness?" Ordinarily, goodness should increase faith and spur people to dedicate themselves to God's service. But at the sight of God's goodness, the evil one creates confusion, suspicion and distrust: "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons."

Sometimes, because of human hunger for fame and recognition, we find fault in the good acts achieved by God through others. Let us be moved rather to gratitude in the face of genuine God's goodness. The evil one, on its part, generates confusion in order to destroy both the outward and inner peace that manifest God's goodness. The people who allowed the evil one to use them to accuse Jesus forgot that what they are accusing Jesus about lives in their homes and families: "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." When you point a finger at someone, at least, three fingers are pointing back at you.

The season of Lent is one defined by the cultivation of loving and compassionate acts. The evil one sometimes puts reasons in our hearts to hinder the transmission of God's love and compassion through us. Wherever the seed of distrust is sown, it impedes the communication of love and compassion. To sow the seed of distrust in the hearts of people in the face of God's goodness is to scatter the works of God. The evil one is committed to the works of confusion that divides. Remember, he who does not gather with me scatters.

We are challenged to gather with Jesus in announcing the reign of God's kingdom over the forces of darkness. To do this, obedience to God's words is a central element. This is the point of the message from the Prophet Jeremiah in our first reading: "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people." Obedience is the virtue of dedication while dedication to God is the highest purpose in life.

God desires even today to heal us from our muteness of various kinds. The sort of muteness that prevents us from standing for the truth, from living the truth, and from proclaiming the truth. To be healed of such, we must give ourselves, like Jesus, to God in complete obedience. In the absence of obedience, Jeremiah tells us that truth perishes. The death of truth is what the evil tries to achieve in the face of God's goodness by sowing confusion and mistrust. Let us resist this evil act by taking God's words seriously: "O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your heart."

*Fr. Ujah Ejembi, SJ, is the Assistant Parish Priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.

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