2nd March. Monday in 2nd Week of Lent

1st Reading: Daniel 9:4-10

Humbled by experience, the exiles turn back to God their Saviour.

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you.

Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Gospel: Luke 6:36-38

Jesus calls us to be perfect in the virtue of mercy, in imitation of God himself.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged;do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”


Being transformed

Where Matthew reports Jesus saying, in his sermon on the mount: “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), Luke, in the sermon on the plain, reads: “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” What God expects of us in Luke’s version is more specific and more attainable. All sinners ought to show some compassion, as they continually seek this very response of mercy from God. Yet, Jesus does not allow half-measures; it seems it must be all nothing! Pardon must be so generously given to anyone who has hurt us, that it runs over and pours out of us. We are to be twice as loving as the other was hateful, twice as trusting as the other was suspicious. But this change can’t be achieved by study alone. We cannot transform ourselves into God, but let God’s Spirit transform us.

Lenten fasting may reduce the aggressiveness of our everyday responses. If it is accompanied by a surrender of our spirit to God, then divine strength and grace will flow through us. Our fasting reminds us and symbolizes to others that God alone can transform us. In this humble spirit we can pray for mercy like Daniel in today’s first reading. We have only to recognise our sins and our evil, and admit to God that “we have departed from your commandments and laws.” When confessing our sins, we are already open to God’s love and transformation. Confession is a way of rejecting whatever residue of sin is within us, in order to be changed.

Daniel admits several times to being “shamefaced.” Shame can be very destructive or it can be purifying and transforming. Sometimes when shame comes over people, they lose all inhibitions and abandon themselves to all kinds of shameless deeds! Another kind of shame casts off pride and make-believe, leading to humility and honesty. It helps the adult to be again as a child in spirit, in trust, in a wholesome purity. The transformed adult trusts, loves and forgives in imitation of God himself. “Of such is the kingdom of God.”


Confessing to God

I’m struck by the note of confession in today’s first reading. It was in fact a communal prayer of confession. The whole people were acknowledging their sinfulness before God. “We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments; we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God.” This public act of confession on the part of the people of Israel is one that we, the church, can easily make our own. We know that we too have failed, as individuals and as a community. Yet, it is to such individuals and to such a community that the Lord issues the invitation in today’s gospel, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” Jesus is calling on us to be nothing less than God-like. He knows of what we are made; he knows that we are prone to sin, and, yet, he keeps calling us towards the highest ideals. He continues to give us a calling in keeping with our identity as people made in the image of God. He pays us the complement of putting a noble calling before us, in spite of our repeated failures. He also gives us the means to respond to that calling, by pouring the Holy Spirit into our hearts. He gives us a great resource as well as a great calling. We pray that we would draw on that resource in a special way this Lent so that we may be faithful to our calling. [Martin Hogan]

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