Entering Holy Week, we see numerous stirring examples of Jesus' fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies. From the direction he enters Jerusalem to his mode of transport, we find again and again how he is the one intended to reclaim the temple and prove to the world that he is indeed the son of God, chosen to save us through his revolutionary example of love and forgiveness.
Jeremiah 31:31 contains the great prophecy that the Lord will one day place his law within our hearts. In the Old Testament, God's law was written on stone and often appreciated as an imposition, a burden. But Jesus is the Law incarnate, the Torah made flesh. Therefore, when we eat his body and drink his blood, we take the law into our hearts, and thus we realize the prophecy of Jeremiah.
The Divine Love is the great theme of the Bible, but one of the mistakes we can make is to project onto God our way of being. God’s love is unconditional, not fickle and vacillating. His love is hesed, which means “tender mercy.” This love is visible, par excellence, in the Incarnation.
The Temple, for Old Testament Jews, was everything. But St. Paul, who lived for many years in Jerusalem and knew the rituals of the Temple very well, told the Corinthians that their bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit. The account of Jesus cleansing the Temple in this week’s Gospel, brought together with Paul's insight, provides us with with a wonderful Lenten meditation. Let Jesus swing that whip of cords around the Temple of your body; it’s time for a spring cleaning of the soul!
The story of the Transfiguration of Christ has beguiled the Christian mind for centuries. It is the clearest New Testament evocation of mystical experience, the experience of spiritual things within the ordinary and the keen conviction that the spiritual reality is greater and more beautiful than ordinary experience. "Mystical" means there has been contact with a Person: the person of God.
On this first Sunday of Lent, the Church asks us to meditate on animals and angels. For Christ, in his own person, joins together the disparate elements of creation, the spiritual and the material, angels and wild beasts. There are, of course, angels and wild beasts in all of us. We are all a microcosm of the ethereal and the corporeal, the spiritual and the physical.
Our Gospel this week gives us one of the great scenes of healing in the ministry of Jesus, and as is usually the case, the Gospel writer composes the scene in such a way that it becomes an icon of the spiritual life in general. In our sickness, our weakness, our shame, our sin, our oddness—lots of us feel like this leper. And once we’ve been healed by the Lord, we feel the obligation to tell the world about it.
It is of particular importance this week that we read the first reading and the Gospel together, for the former sheds enormous light on the latter. In the first reading, Moses assures the people: "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself." Moses received the word from God, but this new prophet would be an authority greater than Moses. He would speak with the words of God. And in the Gospel reading from Mark, this is precisely who Jesus is revealed to be: the highest prophet and the Word of God made flesh.
When Christianity is reduced to deism or moralism, we turn the Gospel into a faint echo of the surrounding culture. But today's readings propose something much more substantive than spiritual bromides or ethical directives. They suggest a new world breaking into the old.