Human beings don’t respond well to God, our scriptures during Lent say. Today’s readings are especially pessimistic. People won’t listen to you when you speak to them, God tells Jeremiah in our first reading. It’s been like that since they came from Egypt. “When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either; when you call to them, they will not answer you… This is a nation that does not listen to the voice of the LORD, its faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.” Jeremiah 7:23-28
In Luke’s Gospel, also read today, Jesus is dismissed as a devil by some in the crowd as he gives a mute person the power to speak. By the devil’s power he does this, they say. This is not the only time it happens. In Luke’s Gospel, read Monday of this week, Jesus is dismissed by his own people when he spoke to them in Nazareth.
Jews are not the only ones slow to believe. Naaman the Syrian was ready to go home after they told him his leprosy could be cured by going into the Jordan. “How slow you are to believe,” Jesus said to the disciples on the way to Emmaus . The same can be said of us.
Yet, the mercy of God is stronger than our unbelief, our Lenten readings say. Jesus continues on to Jerusalem, no matter how unbelieving his own people of Nazareth are, or the leaders of his people, or the crowds in the cities where he taught and worked wonders , or his own disciples, or outsiders like Naaman, or we are.
No matter how strong human unbelief, Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem and proclaims the mercy and love of God there to a people slow to believe.
It’s important to recognize our own slowness to believe and also to do what he calls us to do.
What are we called to do? To believe in the mercy of God; to believe in the One who uniquely expresses God’s mercy, Jesus Christ, to stay close to him and listen to him. He tells us to be like God in how we live in ways small and great, to forgive as God does, to recognize God’s presence in the signs like the sacraments, to pray, asking God’s will be done, his kingdom come.
This Lent is so different from Lent in other years, isn’t it? We don’t have many of the reminders usually associated with Lent: the liturgy, sacraments and devotions are curtailed this year because of the pandemic.
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” our responsory says today. “Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him.”
Does God speak today anyway? A pandemic can’t silence God’s voice. Nothing silences the voice of God’s Mercy.