Third Sunday of the Great Fast

 

Gen 7:1-24; Josh 5:13-6:5; Rom. 7:14-25; Matt 20:17-28.

Click play to listen the Evangalion (gospel reading) of the day.


 

Try to become righteous through loving obedience to God and loving service to our fellow Brethren.

 

Gen 7:1-24 belongs to the Flood Story in 6:9-9:17. The Flood story has as its main theme the fate of the sinfulness of humanity, which invites disorder of the universe and God’s care in continuing his creative purpose through a just man, Noah. If creation is understood as bringing order and harmony to the pre-existent chaos, the flood represents the reversal of that creative process. If God were to revoke his protective hand, then the forces of disorder would return. Through evil desires and sinful deeds, humans disfigured the divine image in themselves and destroyed the creative purpose. Sin destroys the order and harmony of creation. However, even though God regrets creating man because of “corruption and lawlessness” (hamas), God does see Noah’s righteousness (zadiq) and decides to save His creative purpose (Gen 6:ff.). While the hamas of humanity led to the disruption of the entire order in creation, leading God to return the earth to the watery chaos from which it was called forth (Gen 1:9); the zedekah (righteousness) of Noah led to the hope of restoration and redemption of humanity and of the entire creation.  To be zadiq means “to be right with God, loyal to divine command and intention”.  A righteous person is a man of integrity in one’s relationships.  Noah prefigures Jesus, who by fulfilling all righteousness by receiving baptism from John the Baptist (Matt 3:15) and by being obedient to his Father’s will unto death (Phil 2:8), becomes the righteous Son par excellence of His Father. Noah, as well as Jesus, becomes mediator of God’s saving plan through righteousness. 

 

In Joshua 5:13-6:5, we see the presentation of Joshua as someone who abides by the Divine command. An important quality of leadership in a believing community is seen in this passage. As did Moses, Joshua, too, through his obedience to the voice of the Divine Presence was able to learn from Him, and as a result he could lead his people according to God’s intentions and designs.

 

Rom 7:14-25 is a difficult text to interpret, despite its theological richness. It speaks of the dilemma a person faces caused by the polarity of sin and grace, flesh and spirit, the law of evil and the law of God. In Pauline terminology flesh (sarx) represents the selfish and weak human nature which opposes the Spirit and is against God. The Spirit (pneuma) represents life-giving power. By portraying himself as a carnal person sold to sin, Paul points to the reason for the internal conflict within his own person: the tug of war between the in-dwelling force of sin in the flesh and its members and the Spirit that comes from the law of God. Because of this tension, Paul speaks of the dilemma of the polarization between what I a person (the inner self being guided by the Spirit) desires and what a person (being under the grip of the power of sin) achieves. The way to overcome these dilemmas and tensions is to rely on the power of “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1ff.). The more a person entrusts himself/herself to the life-giving power of the Risen Lord, the more the power of the Spirit will take hold of one’s frailties. The power of the Spirit will liberate us from the slavery of sin. The Great Fast is a time to resolve the tension within us, caused by the power of sin which leads to discord and dissension, by reviving and rekindling the power of the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism.

 

 20:17-28 discusses the concept of authority, which is different from that of the world that is to be prevailed among the followers of Jesus and in their communities. The power structure in the Church should be guided by the principle of service (diakonia). The request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, John and James, manifests a misguided striving for earthly greatness of the disciples. Jesus, by denying the request for the best place in the kingdom of heaven as a reward for their following Him, declares that in the kingdom of God there are no special privileges and that one has no claims before God. The immediate angry reaction of the rest of the disciples clearly manifests the aftermath of the untoward attempt to grab the best posts and privileges. By delineating the contrast between the meaning of authority in the outside world and within the Christian community, Jesus highlights the servant character of authority in the church. The authority structure in the church should be a service structure. In this way, the Church becomes a counterculture of authoritarian understanding of power and authority prevalent in the secular world. Through the pairing of greatness with service, and the desire to be first with to be a slave, Jesus proposes a new hierarchy of authority in the Church. The disciples are invited to follow His example of humility, service and self-sacrifice. Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper (Jn 13: 1-15), though an annually re-enacted ritual, its transference from the level of symbol to actuality is yet to be achieved.

 

 

Credits: Father Joy Philip Kakkanattu, CMI <jpkakkanattu 'at' gmail 'dot' com>

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