Hardness of Heart

- Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Psalm 95 is used as the responsorial psalm for today’s Lenten liturgy with its familiar admonition to be open to the promptings of God if one should hear God’s voice. 

The first reading from the prophet Jeremiah is a rather straight forward criticism of our ancestors who did not listen to the message that God sent through the various prophets.  If the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures are used as a yardstick, one might say that “being ignored” is a sign of authenticity in the life of the prophet. 

Today’s Gospel reading also points out a stumbling block that often gets in the way of hearing the voice of God.  Jesus has cast out an evil spirit, a spirit that had rendered a man mute.  Freeing the man from the evil spirit has made it possible for the man to speak.  Upon hearing this marvel, some of the onlookers asked Jesus for a sign. 

Our first reaction is to scratch our heads.  Didn’t Jesus just give them a sign?  Why should they need more?

Actually, this request comes from their history.  Before the Babylonian captivity, the priests of the temple had secreted the Ark of the Covenant in a cave and sealed it up lest it fall into the hands of the Assyrian marauders.  A legend grew up around this act that said that the Messiah would reveal the hiding place of the Ark.  When the people realize that Jesus just might be the Messiah, they ask him for “a sign.”  They are asking him to find the Ark of the Covenant.  Their “hardness of heart” lies in the fact that they are unable to lay aside their preconceived notions of the Messiah and are, therefore, unable to recognize God’s voice as it comes from the mouth of Jesus.

We are all people of preconceived notions and biases.  We all carry some prejudices around.  Some of them are harmless preconceived notions which have become as much a part of us as our habits.  However, they can stand in the way of hearing what God has to say.  God does not conform to our images and our ideas.  In order to be attentive to God’s voice, we have to lay aside our usual way of doing things and conform ourselves to a “new song,” a new way of doing things.  

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