Journey to Daily Prayer – Day 33
Fifth Sunday in Lent
“Altar Call Day”
Have you ever had a stumbling block in your faith? Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship, a recurring sin, or perhaps an addiction. It’s that one thing that distracts you from taking your faith more seriously. For Jesus’ opponents in today’s Luke reading, the stumbling block is Jesus himself! First, let’s understand today’s Isaiah reading. It begins with describing God destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea while redeeming Israel out of slavery (Is 43:16-17). It continues with God doing a new thing—rivers in the desert where jackals and ostriches enjoy living water (Is 43:18-20). As an Israelite, you would’ve recognized immediately that jackals and ostriches were unclean animals, according to Leviticus, and actually a symbol for unclean Gentiles. In other words, God was going to open up his kingdom even to those unclean Gentiles. So when Jesus shares today’s Luke parable to the scribes and the chief priests, he’s making a clear statement: if they can’t bear fruit of forgiveness and compassion for sinners, God will forcibly open up the kingdom and let the sinners in (Lk 20:9-16). However, Jesus’ opponents would rather kill Jesus, than let sinners in (Lk 20:19). And thus Jesus became their large and massive stumbling block (Lk 20:17-18). Now we too may have a similar stumbling block: we may feel like some sinners don’t deserve forgiveness. We may even believe that we can never receive forgiveness. Yet, Sunday is always about new beginnings. Sunday is always altar call day. And as often as we come up to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, so often are we assured to receive grace to forgive others, and receive forgiveness, too.
O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.