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The Second Sunday in Lent

Reminiscere

O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

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An Overview

This Sunday's name, like all the Sundays in Lent, comes from the opening words of the Introit (the Psalm portion we chant after confession and absolution).

Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love,
   for they have been from of old.

 

Reminiscere miserationum tuarum, Domine et misericordiae tuae,

    quae a saeculo sunt

That is to say, the whole of this Sunday revolves around the prayer "Remember, O Lord, your mercy and your steadfast love."

The Lord was merciful when He didn't destroy Jacob in the wrestling match, and He showed His steadfast love when He blessed him.

The account from the Gospel is a curious one, because it seems as though Christ withholds both love and mercy in His harsh words to the woman. Nonetheless, in an answer to her prayer that He "remember," the Lord is compassionate, showing love to a thousand generations. 

This humble need for Christ and His mercy is a natural continuation of the themes we have already encountered in the season of Lent.

Artwork: Christ and the Canaanite Woman, Pietro del Pò. Italian, 17th century. From the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

 

The Old Testament

Genesis 32:22-32

  • Context is always important, but we should certainly note here that Jacob's encounter at the Jabbok is in the context of him being afraid to meet Esau.

  • Jacob understands that he must strive, and certainly sees this as both a physical and a spiritual struggle, thus he asks a blessing from this spiritual being

  • The refusal to speak the "name above all names" shows Jacob that he is not wrestling with a mere angel, but with the Lord

  • This story went under major revisions in the Jewish retellings at the time of Jesus. The fact that there is so much confusion about who the "man" (or angel" was, shows the difficulty that non-Christian writers had with verse 30. We do not try to add or take away from scripture, and so we take Jacob at his word that he saw God "face to face"

Translation Notes

The Epistle

1 Thessalonians 4:1-7

  • Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that they already know what they are to do and to avoid, nonetheless they (and we) must be reminded of the Law constantly

  • This passage is particularly poignant during Lent, when we learn to "control our bodies" through fasting and other disciplines

  • The ability to remain faithful in marriage and abstain from sexual morality is what marks us as different than the unbelieving gentiles.

Translation Notes

  • Verse 3: "sexual immorality" Greek πορνείας (por-NAY-as) the same root word as "pornography."

The Holy Gospel

Matthew 15:21-28

  • On the heels of the epistle reading, we should be somewhat scandalized that a Gentile woman is being mentioned here

  • Her cry "Have mercy, O Lord," is, in Greek, Kyrie Eleison. This is the prayer of the Church every single Sunday.

  • Note that the disciples do not want the demon to be cast out, but they just want to ignore the problem altogether.

  • Curiously, Jesus does not rebuke the disciples or answer her, but instead says that He was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel, meaning that Gentiles were outside the realm of His earthly ministry

  • We should be as bold as this woman in our prayers: "do not even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table?"

  • Jesus does not balk at boldness in prayer, but instead praises it. We should take note that He wants us to pray as dear children as their dear father.

Translation Notes

  • Verse 26: "to the dogs," Greek κυναρίοις.  (kuhn-ar-EE-ois). Something like "little puppies." You may come across preachers that say that Jesus called the woman a "female dog." This is blasphemous and a lazy reading of Scripture.

  • Verse 27 τραπέζης τῶν κυρίω αὐτῶν (trap-EH-zehs ton kur-EE-oh au-TON). Literally "fall from the Lord's table."

  • Verse 28: "be it done for you," is the same structure in Greek as the Lord's Prayer. Compare γενηθήτω σοι ὡς θέλεις (gen-ay-THAY-tow soi hos thel-LEIS) with Matthew 6:10 γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου (gen-ay-THAY-tow to thel-AY-ma sou)

Poetry Used in the Liturgy of Reminiscere

  • Psalm 25- Verse 6 gives shape to this Sunday, but is also a good summary of the rather lengthy Psalm 25. It is a continuous prayer for God to be merciful and to relent from destroying His people.

  • Psalm 121 - One of the songs of Ascents, traditionally recited during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for festival days. A beautiful prayer to write on our hearts, this is a humble confession that our help comes not from our own strength, but from the Lord who created the universe.

  • Psalm 106- Another length (48 verses) Psalm, Number 106 retells all of salvation history, from our slavery in Egypt until the entry into the holy land. o that, while the content is pre-Davidic, Psalm 106:47-48 are included in David's Hymn of thanksgiving recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:34-35

Artwork: Jacob Wrestling the Angel, Pietro Monaco. Italian, 18th Century. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Further Reading & Listening

 

 

Artwork: Marble relief fragment with the head of Medea1st–2nd century. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This marble sculpture very well could have been seen by the recipients of Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. This image is a copy of a relief from 400 years before Christ was born. Medea was a witch who tricked the daughters of King Pelias into boiling their father in hopes of rejuvenating him. The full marble relief, from which comes this fragment, depicts Medea and the girls about to commit the terrible act. You can read more about the myth of Medea here. If you'd like more information on the historical background of Thessaly, you can purchase The Lutheran Bible Companion Volume 2.

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