Jewish people tell interesting stories. Here's one some of you have heard before, but I'll tell it again because it's good! There was an elderly rabbi who went on a journey with his servant and sidekick Jacob. They arrived at a roadside in and the rabbi went inside to rest, leaving Jacob to watch the rabbi's cart and take care of the rabbi's horse. The local horse trader came by and plied poor Jacob with liquor; before long the trader had persuaded poor Jacob to sell the rabbi's good horse for just a few coins.
The following morning, Jacob awakened to the enormity of his mistake and was very frightened. What would he tell the rabbi! Then he had an idea. Quickly placing himself by the rabbi's cart he began to chew on hay. The rabbi came out, looked over the bizarre scene in front of him, and shouted, “What's going on here? Where's my horse?” “The horse,” replied Jacob. “I am your horse!” “Are you crazy,” the rabbi shouted. “Please don't be angry,” Jacob pleaded. “Years ago, a great misfortune befell me. I was a young man then, wild and foolish, and I sinned gravely with a woman. For my punishment, God turned me into a horse, saying 'Since you acted like an animal, I'll turn you into an animal!' So for twenty long years, you, rabbi, have been my master. But now it seems my punishment is over. I'm a man again! Praise God!”
The rabbi listened attentively to Jacob's story, believed it and joined him in praising God! Yet there was a problem. He couldn't continue his journey without a horse. So he went to the local market. There, lo and behold, in the stable, was his old horse, munching hay calmly and contentedly. Shocked and deeply distressed by what he saw, the rabbi approached the horse and whispered in the horse's ear: “For goodness sake, Jacob! Again? So soon!”
It's the story of our lives as we begin this Lenten season: “Again? So Soon!” How often have we said that to ourselves. Who can count! In all our lives there is some sad pattern of sinfulness wherein we stumble over and over. When this happens, two assumptions may arise within us. The first is “No big deal. I'm okay!” The second is “I'm utterly hopeless & helpless.” Both assumptions are lies. There is a problem: we're not okay. But we do have hope and we do have help! We need to see our situation as God sees it. How does God see it? God looks at our constant stumbling and sees me, sees you, a beloved son or daughter, having the usual troubles of growing up, of becoming spiritually mature. Among the most comforting words Jesus addresses to us in the Gospel are these: “Healthy people don't need doctors, sick people do.” When we admit our sins, acknowledge our sickness, and pray for help, help will come.
So we open or hearts to God this Lent. We name our wounds, identify our hurts and pour out our hopes. We offer them all to the God of all consolation, confident that help will come and hope will be fully realized. Yes, in God's good time, it will be! AMEN!