A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

I LOVE THAT IMAGE of Jesus the mother hen, longing to take the children of Jerusalem under his wings. It’s an appealing picture of God—a God who longs for us, who reaches out to gather us in. It’s an image of God that comforts us.

But Jesus goes on to say that the children of Jerusalem have not been willing to take the shelter he offers. A motherly figure, making a welcoming gesture, offering love and security, and the children of Jerusalem say, “No.” Does that make sense?

Herod “the fox” resists Jesus for reasons that are easy to understand. Prophets point fingers at a ruler’s unjust and greedy reach for more power. But why would someone reject freely-offered love? Why would you or I?

Can we imagine the love of God as a threat to our fiercely-held value of self-reliance, our own quest for security? If I let God love me and enfold me with all my imperfections and all my doubts and fears, could it make me weak? Do I really trust in that unconditional love?

This is a slippery sort of resistance. It’s not about how we spend our time or our money; it’s not about just or unjust things that we do. It’s about how we set our heart.

This is the kind of resistance that gnaws at our faith not with big questions, but with little objections; it’s the kind of resistance that can lead us to choose to try to escape through chemicals or other kinds of addictive behavior rather than face the truth. The resistance can become bondage.

The bondage of fear, and the bondage of our insecurity—these aren’t things that we can will ourselves out of today, right now. In fact, our Christian tradition assures us that we aren’t called to release ourselves from resistance on our own. What we’re called to do, rather, is simply place ourselves where the grace of God can work on us.

A first step in that direction is to slow down, quiet the voices inside our head, and try on that image of Jesus as a mother hen. Try reading scripture that way this Lent, taking the image that jumps out at us, and letting it enfold us. Instead of worrying about unlocking scripture’s mysteries, let’s allow scripture to unlock us. That is one way we can take the step to place ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus stands before us, with arms outspread, waiting to welcome us, waiting to shelter us. Jesus offers us himself, whether our good works are many or few, whether our motives are pure or not, whether our faith in him is firm or not. His grace is free, and its meaning is beyond all imagining. He calls us only to be open to receive.