A lot of the daily office readings from the Hebrew Scriptures for Lent are from Jeremiah.  He began his work as a prophet during the reign of the reforming king, Josiah, and in these Dueteronomic reforms, the cult was to be centered in the Jerusalem Temple and justice was to be done for the widows, the orphans and the oppressed.  At first Jeremiah supported these reforms.  But over time, it came to be about a kind of cultic legalism, a personal purity, and concerns for justice for those in need fell away.

 In the Gospel reading this morning, Jesus is breaking the rules of personal piety, the purity rules, by talking to a (foreign) Samaritan woman (at the well – this is the reading for Monday in II Lent) shocking the apostles when they return from purchasing food.  Both the fact that she was a woman and the fact that she was a foreigner were at issue here.  But Jesus was about doing his father’s will, bringing God’s reign to those who needed it.

 God always seems to be most concerned with our being in a relationship, and living into those relationships in ways that serve others.  For me, this tied in with the canticle after the first reading (Isaiah 11:1-9) which is a vision of God’s inbreaking reign (deciding with equity for the meek of the earth and the wolf living with the lamb and all the imagery of the “peaceable kingdom”) – which is always about how people live and how the world is, not about personal purity codes.  And it tied in very much with the antiphon said with the Benedictus:  “Anything you did for one of these, however humble, * you did it for me.”

 The one commandment Jesus gave us was to love each other, to care for each other, as Jesus loves us.  A Christian life is a life of service.  We serve our God.  But we serve our God by serving God’s people.

 Our personal disciplines for Lent can be very helpful.  I encourage them.  But they are always about putting ourselves into a right relationship with God so that we can actively serve God in the world.  They are not an end in themselves.  They do not make us better than other people.  They do not relieve us of our need to be in relationship with others and to work to meet their needs.  That’s God’s work.  That’s what Jesus came to do.  And it’s his example that we are called to follow.

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