Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection 3-16-23

Third Week of Lent, Thursday, 3-16-23, Year A
Readings: First Reading Jer 7:23-28; Ps 95:1-2,6-9; Gospel Lk 11:14-23
Theme: There is No Neutral Position

In today’s readings, we are faced with the stark reality of not obeying God or following His commands. In God’s view, following Him is black or white. You either believe in Him and follow Him or you do not. There is no middle road, no neutral position, no fence to sit on. Christ said to the town of Laodicea in Revelations 3:15-16, 

I know that you are neither cold nor hot.
I wish you were either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm,
neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Understanding the meaning of this verse can be difficult. We can understand that God wants us to be hot for Him (zealous and all in). But why cold (meaning anything but God or all in for the world)? The more likely meaning behind this verse comes from a proper historical and cultural understanding. Laodicea was a prosperous town that was situated between two other towns. Since Laodicea needed to import its water, it did so through aqueducts from these two neighboring towns. One town supplied hot spring mineral water while the other, crisp cold water. Both qualities of these waters were coveted by the people of Laodicea.

But, by the time either of these waters reached the town of Laodicea they were lukewarm with none of the qualities either water had at their origins.

Therefore, both hot and cold were considered good and pleasing because of their redeeming qualities, while the lukewarm water lacked any of these qualities and was lifeless. Since these towns were active this way in Christ’s time, it is most likely the meaning behind this verse.

We should be hot or cold but definitely not lukewarm, lacking in any belief or zeal for God and Christ and being bland in all that we do.

God tells Jeremiah that he commanded the people to listen to him, but in the stubbornness of their hearts, they obeyed not.

Faithfulness has disappeared; 
the word itself is banished from their speech.”

In our times today, many of us have fallen into this lukewarmness, not following God in His commands. People have decided to follow their own way, thinking they know what is best for them. We see it all throughout our society and world. People bending scripture to match ideals or ideology. A lack of worship to anything but themselves. The lack of respect for the dignity of human beings at all stages of life, even in the womb. We see self-centeredness and an inability to deal with adversity by respecting others. And most of all, a reduction in the belief of God and who He really is.

For those who do not believe in God or His son Jesus, deciding to reinvent who He is and what He means apart from a true scriptural understanding of His teaching, sit on the fence with no real desire to seek Him out. People such as this will have a very rude awaking in the end. Jesus is very clear about this in today’s gospel:

“Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

There is no in-between or neutral position in Jesus’s statement. You cannot ride the fence and be a true follower of Jesus. God said to Jeremiah:

This is what I commanded my people.
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.”

For many of us, we may have to change our thinking in order to become either hot or cold and not lukewarm, by jumping off that fence.

St. Paul says it best in Romans 12:2:

“Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
so that you may judge what is God’s will,
what is good, pleasing and perfect.”

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL