Jesus’ Message for that Fox, Herod

17 March 2019 – Second Sunday in Lent

Luke 13:31-35

William Holman Hunt depicts a version of this gospel in his famous painting: ‘‘The Light of the World’’ (1853, public domain). The painting. . . reverses the imagery of the gospel in a fascinating way. Jesus stands outside the door. Jesus holds a lantern, the ‘‘Light of the World.’’ Presumably, the door enters in upon the life, heart, or soul of the observer or some other person. . . By contrast, the gospels suggest that it is the ‘‘sinner’’ who is locked outside in the dark.

. . . The painting has it right in stressing the merciful God seeking out sinners and inviting God’s self into the lives of the outcast, poor, and needy. Jesus’ tale, as written, is clearly a cautionary tale: there is not all the time in the world. At some point the door will close. At some point the master will not recognize us and we will have cast our lot with the thieves, soldiers, and brigands. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Of Abram’s belief scripture tells us that God ‘‘reckoned it to him as righteousness’’ (v 6). Verses 7 and following narrate another event. God reaffirms the covenant with Abram with its two main constituent results: offspring (a nation) and land (a place for the offspring to dwell and thrive). The covenant is sealed with a sacrifice. . .

The covenant itself. . . is the central message of this scripture passage. If God has made this promise to Abram, how is it being fulfilled among us today? . . . God’s people have spread far beyond Egypt and the Euphrates, to embrace a significant portion of the human world in Abram’s spiritual heirs: the people of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Philippians 3:17–4:1

I confess that, on occasion, I find Paul’s dualism between flesh and spirit quite troubling. . . Must we assign all the negative value to the flesh as he does, and all the positive value to the spirit? It is true our flesh will decay in death. But does that mean that God does not want us to be creatures of flesh and to cope with, even endure, or (heaven help us!) enjoy our physical state?

By the same token, the gospels put Jesus on record as reminding us that the spirit too can be debased and perverted—that our sin comes from within us, not from what we eat or drink. In fairness to Paul, he is concerned to combat a kind of proto-Gnostic libertinism: if we are released from the body, then we need not trouble ourselves to restrain our passions.

The difficulty, as anyone in recovery can tell us, is that all too often our bodies do set themselves up to us as ‘‘petty dictators,’’ and we easily get caught in lies. . . God, at least, certainly saw some value in giving flesh to us, in giving flesh to God’s incarnate Word, and in restoring spirit to flesh in the resurrection of Jesus and of the rest of us on the last day. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Jeffery VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.

Homily Service 40, no. 4 (2007): 3-12.

David Turnbloom