Tuesday, March 27
Prayer: Holy Tuesday
On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus - the day after leaving the authorities raging mad and plotting to rid themselves of his criticisms - walked right back into the teeth of danger and taught. All day long, it seems. Matthew 21:18 through 25:46 shares with us some of what Jesus had to say to various people who stopped by. He had to have fielded questions, and explained some things more fully. His last teaching session, his last sermon really. Pretty important.
His last segment, as the shadows of evening were lengthening, was about the separation of the sheep and the goats - or those who are saved and those who aren't. Jesus' criterion? Not sweetness or piety or prayerfulness or even faith. Rather, did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison? This should make us Americans shudder - for we have our clever rationales for why we shouldn't feed the hungry, why we should fear and avoid strangers, why people should help themselves, and so forth. I don't want, when my life is over, to be stuck trying to explain to Jesus why he was wrong.
Jesus right here doesn't talk about how we do these things. As we've argued often, Jesus probably wouldn't endorse handouts, but would urge us into relationships, to befriend people in need, to share our social capital, to walk the journey with others.
If Jesus' last sermon then is a clue, salvation isn't merely a matter of praying the right prayer. Maybe words uttered to God are secondary, or only matter if we live into what prayer should make happen in our lives. Dorothy Day, a woman of intense prayer but also heroic service to those in need, once asked "Who said words are the only form of prayer? I believe that some people - lots of people - pray through the witness of their lives, though the work they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer and receive from people."
Holy Tuesday is a day Jesus calls us to the form of prayer that is our work, our love of and friendship to people - not just those we like but also the people Jesus surely likes - and sharing and receiving the kind of love Jesus showed up in his life and in his death.
My Palm Sunday sermon ("What Did Jesus See in the Trees?") and some moving music are on
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