Sunday, March 12, 2017

Monday of the Second Week in Lent

“Christ on the Cross” by El Greco, 1585-90
Reading I: Daniel 9:4b-10
Commentary on Dn 9:4b-10
We find a prayer of repentance in this reading from Daniel. This is not an individual prayer, but a prayer of the whole people. In addition to enumerating the failings of the people, it also asks for compassion and forgiveness. We note that, following this request, the commandments of the Lord are summed up with: “…to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets." The Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in Christ.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 79:8, 9, 11 and 13
R. (see 103:10a) Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Commentary on Ps 79:8, 9, 11 and 13
Psalm 79 is a lament over the destruction of the Temple. In this part of the hymn the psalmist asks God for forgiveness of past offenses and compassion in their need. This sin has resulted in their imprisonment and separated them from God. This hymn was offered after the destruction of the temple and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant. It is a plea for compassion and help while repenting from sins (“Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake”).
CCC: Ps 79:9  431
Gospel: Luke 6:36-38
Commentary on Lk 6:36-38
Jesus takes a quote from the Old Testament and twists it just slightly (in the OT the phrase frequently used is “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” e.g. Leviticus 19:2). He goes further to tell the people that they need to stop judging or condemning, but to forgive. He concludes by saying that: “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” In other words, the standard against which they judge others is the standard by which the disciples will be judged by the Heavenly Father.
CCC: Lk 6:36 1458, 2842
How many times have parents or teachers heard this question from two or more children? “That’s not fair.  His/her piece was bigger.”  We quickly learn that the easiest way to solve the problem is to have one child cut or separate whatever it is to be shared, and have the other child choose first which they want.  This ends arguments about fairness right from the start.
What we have in the Gospel proclaimed today is the Lord’s way of saying the same thing about forgiveness and judgment.  It is one of the more important principles the Lord gave us.  It certainly goes to the heart of Christian Justice (the equitable distribution of physical wealth).
If we look at the Lord’s example we see how judgment must be applied.  It is summed up in the rather cliché statement: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”  Applied in the Gospel, Jesus is telling his apostles not to judge people, but rather love and accept them; all participate in the fall of Adam.  Does he mean that we are to accept injustice as a part of being non-judgmental? Not at all, we have seen the Lord condemn unjust acts even to driving the moneychangers out of the temple.  
At the beginning of his papacy, our Pope, Francis, famously said of homosexuals: “Who am I to judge?”  His statement, completely in accord with the Gospel was, as usual, misinterpreted by the press as giving tacit approval to the homosexual life style.  As was seen on many occasions since, that is far from the truth.  We are all, as disciples, asked to defer to God for judgment; who are we to judge?  For our part, like our Pope, we proclaim the love of God to all his creatures but we do not condone sins against the dignity of persons, nor do we abdicate our belief in natural law in the name of “inclusivity.”
In our own lives this teaching has a couple of impacts.  First, this is Lent and we are focused on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This speaks clearly to the almsgiving part.  Jesus tells us: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” This hits us pretty hard since most of us have a fairly tight budget.  But it is true, the more one gives, the more they seem to receive. The same is true of forgiveness, the more we forgive, the more we will be forgiven.
This Gospel also lets us set the standard by which we will be judged to some degree.  Sure there are some absolutes in God’s law but much or our moral theology is composed of shades of gray.  Jesus tells us that the depth of those shades of gray in which we paint others will be applied to us.  That takes us back to the sharing story above. 

[1] The picture is “Christ on the Cross” by El Greco, 1585-90

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