Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reflections on today's Gospel: Weds, March 20

The day after St. Joseph's Day, and we jump back into Lent.

The readings today revolve around freedom.  We all love the idea of being free.  It is engraved into our American thinking that we are a free people in a free society.  Just don't smoke a cigarette in public or pour yourself a Big Gulp in Manhattan.

The Scriptures present us with a contradiction.

Jesus is confronting the Pharisees about their supposed freedom.  They think their devotion to the law has given them a freedom.  Really, as Our Lord points out, their freedom is a slavery.  It's not new, really.  My desire for junk food could make me a slave to either the treadmill or to Insulin (the choice is mine).  I might choose to smoke or to drink or to waste hours on the Internet in search of pornography, all in order to claim, "I am free!"  But the reality is that, after a while, the thing takes hold of chooser and makes him/her a slave to it.  How many people swore they would give up smoking when the cost of a pack of cigarettes reached a certain level?  Those Scribes and Pharisees are so proud of their status and supposed intelligence, that they feel they'll spot the Messiah before everyone else (or, because they're so special, the Messiah will naturally come and seek them out first before revealing himself to the rest of the world).  Their ignorance is on display for us to see.  The Messiah is close enough that they can smell on his breath what He had for breakfast, and they don't get it.  Sad.  For so many Catholics, pride has them thinking they know better than the Church.  That's it: they are slaves to their pride.

Then there are the three slaves: Shedrach, Meshach, and Abednago (Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael). In the words of Phil Esposito, "no doot aboot it", they are slaves, the property of the King.  Their disobedience has earned the King's wrath.  Being burned alive.  When they do polls every so often about the way people would least like to die, burning to death is always in the top few.  Come to think of it, why does this King have a furnace big enough have a party in?  The three see this furnace in front of them.  I'm sure they can feel the heat from it, just being in the room with it.  Yet they consistently refuse to act like slaves.  They are free, no matter what society or the King or his guards think.

Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin".  Imagine sin as one of those leg irons with the lead ball at the end.  That's what sin does to us: weighs us down, keeps us from moving freely.  Some people have so many of those irons on, they can hardly walk.  Some have been walking with one of those things on their leg for so long they have forgotten it's there and come to believe that's as fast as they can walk!  How many have let pride stop them from coming to Confession to get the chain broken?  What was that song from the Eagles?  "So often times it happens / that we live our lives in chains / and we never even know we have the key."

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