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A Taste of Heaven

First Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30

Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD
in the presence of the whole community of Israel,
and stretching forth his hands toward heaven,
he said, “LORD, God of Israel,
there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below;
you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants
who are faithful to you with their whole heart.

“Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth?
If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you,
how much less this temple which I have built!
Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O LORD, my God,
and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant,
utter before you this day.
May your eyes watch night and day over this temple,
the place where you have decreed you shall be honored;
may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place.
Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel
which they offer in this place.
Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 84:3, 4, 5 AND 10, 11

R. (2) How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
O God, behold our shield,
and look upon the face of your anointed.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!

Gospel: Mark 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”

NAB

feb 9

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival: Today goes by many names, but most of them ooze with decadence. When we wake up tomorrow, we enter a season of penance, but today, we feast.

I am great at feasting. I love food and celebrating with friends and family. I love hosting guests, opening a bottle of wine, cutting into a beautiful dessert, the works. To get right down to the truth of it—I love the pleasures of this world. Even the acts of doing my hair and slipping into a flattering outfit can bring such pleasure to my day. What a glorious created world we live in! And I am so lucky to have the means to enjoy it so fully!

Today’s Psalm, for that reason, is one that always makes me think twice:

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

“I don’t know,” I can find myself thinking, “I have a pretty good thing going here.” But really, I’m not even lying on the threshold yet! The pleasures we experience now are just a tiny taste of heaven, but they are enough to distract me from my true goal.

After all the feasting and celebrating, we enter forty days of penance and turn our eyes from the pleasures of this world to the glory of heaven. That’s why I like the traditional English name for today: Shrove Tuesday. The word “shrove” refers to confession, an appropriate way to enter the season of penance tomorrow. While feasting prepares our homes for the fast that begins tomorrow (that’s your excuse to not leave leftovers!), we also should take time to prepare our hearts for Lent today. Seek reconciliation. Schedule the time to pray, fast, and give alms. Reflect on how to make this coming season fruitful.

As you celebrate and enjoy the feast, imagine trading one thousand feast days for one day in the courts of the Lord. As we journey into Lent, turn your desire to the house of our God.

photo credit

Brigid Hogan loves the view of the Washington Monument from her apartment, her standing desk, the Green Bay Packers, and a good mystery. She tolerates taking the Metro to the office, where she works as a communications consultant. You can find out more about her here.

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