Sunday, March 12, 2023

Lent 2023 - Oculi

Today marks the third Sunday of Lent, Oculi Sunday, named for the first line of the Introit read today.  Psalm 25:15-16.  "My eyes are forever turned towards the Lord; for he shall release my feet from the snare; look upon me and have mercy on me, for I am abandoned and destitute."

Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, quia ipse evellet de laqueo pedes meos: respice in me, et miserere mei; quoniam unicus et pauper sum ego.

The theme of this Sunday is on having open eyes, being able to the spiritual around us.  To recognize the hidden world around us.  To recognize God working around us and to recognize the evil He is opposing.  

The Old Testament reading is focused on Exodus 8:16-24, set in the middle of the plagues of Egypt in which the fate of Egypt is set and Pharaoh's heart is hardened. Pharaoh saw the wonders of God, he heard God's call, but still refused.  His heart was turned over to its natural end and hardened by his lack of response.

The Gospel reading then turns and focuses on Luke 11:14-28, recounting Jesus's banishing a demon from a mute man, and the response his action garners from the onlookers.  Jesus banishes the demon, the man is able to speak, and the crowd is amazed.  There are some in the crowd though that begin to question Jesus's power.  To say he is driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons, Beelzebul.  Still others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Those so close to see the physical power of God and miss the point.

We still find that today.

To be so close to the truth and to miss the point.  The church sees this and expects this in the world.  "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."  Paul warned in 2 Corinthians 4:4.  

But how often do we see the same thing within the church.  To be so close and miss the point.  To squabble over petty disagreements.  Church splits on music preference.  The type of carpet.  Minor theological differences that have no impact on salvation or Christian living.

How often do we get hardened on our side in church matters and keep drawing lines around us?  

The solution is the one that Jesus offered to those in his crowd at the time.  "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."  We keep our hearts from hardening by keeping our ears and eyes open to the Lord around us.  We remain humble and pliable to where He leads us.  

That's how we avoid the snare and remain free.

Eyes on Him.

Open my eyes that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my ears that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear,
and while the wave notes fall on my ear,
ev’rything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my mouth and let me bear
gladly the warm truth ev’rywhere.
Open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my mouth, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

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