By Theo Sitther, Legislative Associate, MCC U.S. Washington Office
Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12; Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
It is budget season here in Washington. This means that the relevant committees in Congress are busy conducting hearings, meeting with interest groups and drafting legislation that will set U.S. spending amounts and limits for the coming fiscal year. But how will lawmakers, in this country and elsewhere, prioritize the needs of all citizens?
This week’s reading begins with the prophet Jeremiah offering a word of hope to the people of Israel. God speaks through Jeremiah and says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:33b, 34b).
And the Psalmist prays for God’s mercy: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Create in me a clean heart O God and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:1, 10-12).
A central theme of the biblical narrative is that of God’s abundant and steadfast mercy and a continual call to live faithfully. The Psalmist later continues, “With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments” (Psalm 119:10). And throughout the Bible God commands the people to “offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted” (Isaiah 58:10).
Unfortunately, government budgets rarely reflect this commitment to justice. Here in Washington, in the name of cutting the national debt, lawmakers have cut funding to programs that support the poor and the vulnerable and continue to fully fund a bloated and wasteful military budget. As lawmakers are in the process of drafting the budget for the next year, what will happen if we repent of our ways and make peace with our neighbors and enemies? Will we prioritize the needs of the poor and vulnerable?
On this fifth Sunday of Lent, God is calling us to repent and live faithful lives. We can call on our lawmakers to do the same.