“Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy.” Psalm 132:9
As we enter into the later part of Lent, the readings for the day give us several extreme and demanding tales. We hear of the plagues of frogs and gnats sent to Pharaoh and Egypt, both simply hardening Pharaoh’s heart. St. Paul expounds on the greater glory of the revelation of the Spirit of the Lord as freedom, and the setting aside of the Mosaic ministry of condemnation. And the Gospel gives us the familiar story of the righteous yet rich young man, left grieving at the difficulty of gaining eternal life while retaining his possessions. Even the morning and evening Psalm readings seem short episodes, not especially connected by any common theme.
We seem to be left with a few very famous quotes, but what is the unifying theme?
I think the key is in the persistent hardening of the heart that is on display: first the Pharaoh, then the old covenant worshippers, then the rich young man. All are stuck in their inability to open their hearts to the goodness of Jesus. And Jesus points out the only answer to this all too human stubbornness when asked “Then who can be saved?” he gives the ultimate reality: “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible”.
So now we can shout for joy, clothed with righteousness.