First Week of Lent – Friday
Reading : Matthew 5: 20 -26
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder” and whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to council; and if you say, “You fool” you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
In this passage, Jesus reminds us that we have been called into a deep personal relationship with him and need to live our lives according to gospel values. Much has been offered to us in trust and paid for at a great price. We are asked to be responsible stewards for the graces bestowed upon us. ‘From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.’ (Luke 12:48) During this time of Lent, Jesus asks us to reflect on our personal relationships with each other and reminds us of our need to put them in order according to God’s law of love. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) Jesus acknowledges that we are aware of the more obvious sins in our society, murder and such like but reminds us of our more subtle failings and sins that damage the wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and parishes. I am asked to take ownership of my limitations, hidden angers, resentments, un-forgiveness, and negativity towards others, critical attitudes or anything that would diminish the live of soul of another. I am asked to seek out anyone that I have hurt or who may have hurt me and seek true, honest deep reconciliation that sets us both free. (John 8:32) Jesus clearly tells me that my going to the altar while holding resentment against another makes a mockery of true prayer. It is of course essential to pray for the graces needed for true deep reconciliation as God recognises that we are fragile human beings and wishes to bestow the gift of his Holy Spirit upon us; however; failing to seek reconciliation is sinful and draws us away from God and each other. I am asked to offer total, unconditional forgiveness as outlined in the prayer that Christ taught us; ‘forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12) I am reminded of the command, ‘Bear with one another and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.’ (Colossians 3:13)
This is a challenge but like St. Paul I ask for the grace that I need to be reconciled to God and another.
‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13)
Fill me Lord with the grace that I need to be honest with myself and others; may I know your truth that sets us all free. Grace me with a spirit of forgiveness that anyone whom I hold in bondage may be set free; May we rejoice together as we enter your Kingdom of heaven may we lean on your power to show us the way. Amen.