Daily Scripture, February 17, 2024 (2024)


Isaiah 58:9b-14
Luke 5:27-32


The Lenten message is simple, but easily missed and almost always quickly forgotten: Following the ways of the Lord brings happiness and life. If we do what is right and good—if we especially seek justice for the poor and afflicted—we will be healed and renewed. If we stop dancing with evil, freedom will be ours.

In the first reading from Isaiah, the prophet tells Israel that if it wants light to shatter the darkness and joy to scatter sadness, they must confront the evil surrounding them by replacing injustice with justice. “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted,” Isaiah promises, “Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” That’s all they have to do to be brought back to life. But Isaiah’s words are meant for us as well. If we deal with injustice wherever we find it; if we renounce lying and malicious speech; if we share what we have with the needy and reach out to the suffering and broken ones we see every day, then light and life will come to us.

In today’s gospel story from Luke, the Lenten message comes to us as an invitation. Jesus sees Levi, a tax collector, and with two words, “Follow me,” extends to him the unsettling invitation to leave everything behind for the sake of an uncharted future. Jesus calls Levi to strike out on a new path, a different way of being, and Levi unhesitatingly does. In a burst of pure freedom, Levi redefines himself from tax collector to disciple. The gospel suggests that if Levi is to find hope and new life, freedom and peace, he must reimagine not just his life, but even his identity. He must think of himself as an initiate on a new adventure, a disciple on a path to a different but richly promising way of life.

If Lent is all about being healed and renewed, forgiven and redeemed, today’s readings suggest this begins by reimagining who we are and what we should be about day after day.

Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist Family of Holy Cross Province.

Daily Scripture, February 17, 2024 (2024)
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