Stiff-Necked People

One thing that has always stayed with me from the Old Testament was God’s frequent reference to “stiff-necked people”.  He instructed Moses to let the Israelites know they were “stiff-necked” (Exodus 33:5) (Deuteronomy 9:13) and you’ll find references to being “stiff-necked” in the New Testament as well.  (Acts 7:51).  What it means to be “stiff-necked” was never a difficult concept for me, but I didn’t know until recently how clearly God’s message would have come across to the Israelites.  God likely used this description of obstinance because in their day the Israelites would have been well acquainted with the frustration of working a team of stiff-necked oxen who wanted to go their own way.

A recent diagnosis of arthritis has given me new insight into what it means to be “stiff-necked”. I’ve learned that if you start favoring the use of your neck muscles, they become stiff, sore, weak, and even more painful.  Before you know it a loss of mobility has turned things from bad to worse.  Lent comes with an opportunity to work those neck muscles.  To embrace a discipline to turn our heads toward God despite the creaks, pops, and snaps that come from exercising weakened muscles.  I remember an Ash Wednesday homily from years ago that referred to the intermittent burning of crop fields.  After giving stunning visual detail of golden wheat growing across the plains, our priest described the necessity of burning those fields down to black ash after harvest.  The burning was preparation for seeding the following season.  Exercising our stiff necks during Lent is an opportunity to prepare the fields of our hearts for the seeding we anticipate during the Easter season. 

There is no shortage of ways to exercise our muscles during Lent.  Archbishop Etienne gave us a detailed list just last week and there are countless online resources.  In addition, with the advance of Partners in the Gospel, the Seattle Archdiocese has asked parishes to offer a Lenten small group reflection opportunity called “Encounter”.  To quote the Seattle Archdiocese: “This Lent, as our local Church prepares to implement Partners in the Gospel, we reflect on the Word of God and pray that our hearts may be open to encounter Jesus in all the ways He comes to us: in Word, in Sacrament, and in all His people”.  On behalf of the parish, I invite you to join us for Encounter.  Beginning this Sunday, February 18th (the first Sunday of Lent), we will meet for 40-minutes in the Pastoral Center to pray and reflect on several of the Scripture readings for the Lenten Sundays in Year B.  There is nothing you need to do ahead of time and no registration is necessary.  Just drop in and join us for Encounter.  We will begin meeting at 10:10 (right after the 9 a.m. Mass and) and finish at 10:45 (in time for the 11 a.m. Mass).

Every Wednesday throughout Lent, I will be sending an online Lenten reflection along with resources that might help stretch those neck muscles.  If you have not been receiving our eblasts and would like to sign up to receive these Lenten reflections, please contact the Parish Office and we will get you signed up. 

With Love,