03-03-2019Weekly ReflectionFather Prince Raja

Today we have the continuation of Luke's sermon on the plain giving us some of the teachings from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. Last Sunday's Gospel told us not to judge or we would be judged ourselves. This does not mean that we are never to criticize other people. 'Criticize' comes from Greek to make a rational judgment. So we speak of a film or drama 'critic' who may indeed tear a production to pieces or, on the other hand, may praise it to the skies giving full credit to it. We have here the three distinctive unrelated sayings of Jesus: blind leading the blind, the splinter in the companion's eye, the good tree and its fruits. What is being forbidden by Jesus is not judgment as such but negative, destructive judgment. There are times when we are expected to give constructive, helpful criticism.

We cannot pass judgment unless we have some vision and understanding. How can the blind, those without understanding, presume to give leadership to others who are blind? Jesus asks us. The result is inevitable: "Both will fall into the pit." However it is necessary that one should speak from genuine knowledge, accurate data and to the people who can do something about it. The same applies to everything else we like to pass judgment on.

This week we have Ash Wednesday, the beginning of this year's Lent. We say the Season of Lent lasts forty days, as the Latin word, "Quadragesima" suggests. When I was a young seminarian, I took the calendar and wanted to make sure for myself if there were indeed 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. To my surprise, I found there are actually 47 days. I had reasons to be skeptical, after all! So I had a question for the teacher of liturgy, who, of course, was taken by surprise. Later he came up with a meaningful explanation: even on Sundays in Lent, we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, as we do every Sunday; and hence they are not counted as days of fasting and penance. So Lent does have forty weekdays of fasting and penance!

'Forty' is symbolic of a generation, a lifetime. The people of Israel walked in the wilderness for forty years (Dt 8:2). Practically, it was a new generation that entered 'the Promised Land' (Num 32:13). The number forty symbolizes a time of prayer, as the duration that Moses spent in communion with God on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:17-18; 34-28). It symbolizes every person's journey to the mount of God as Elijah "walked for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, God's mountain" (1Kings 19:8). It is this journey that the Season of Lent reminds us of! So let's have a prayerful and blessed season of Lent this year.