Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

(Optional Memorial for Saint Frances of Rome, Religious)

“Esther” by  François-Léon Benouville, 1844
Commentary on Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25
In this prayer from the Book of Esther, we find the queen in great distress, praying for the deliverance of the people of Israel.  They have been condemned to be slaughtered by the king who was influenced by his trusted advisor (Haman).  She places all of her trust in God’s mercy, confident that he will intercede.
*(The USCCB link to these verses is incorrect.  The link provided should work if you would like context for the passage.)
CCC: Est 4:17b 269
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8
R. (3a) Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Psalm 138 is a psalm of thanksgiving. It contains the same sense as if it were a continuation of the prayer of Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25. It praises God for his saving works and expresses confidence in his saving help. It also supports the rescue of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:22ff) who prayed and whose prayers were answered by divine intervention. (“When I called, you answered me.”)
CCC: Ps 138 304; Ps 138:2 214
Gospel: Matthew 7:7-12
Commentary on Mt 7:7-12
In this passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew Jesus explains that, if the faithful pray to the Father, what they ask for will be given (within the context of “good gifts”). This universal truth, he explains is because of God’s infinite love for us. In this case, he uses the analogy of a father feeding his child, and how even sinful parents give good things to their children.
Almost as an afterthought, the Lord then delivers what has been called since the 18th century, the “Golden Rule.” No old testament quote exactly correlates to this quote so we must accept it as an interpretation by the Lord, probably of the Law in Leviticus.
CCC: Mt 7:7-11 2609; Mt 7:12-13 2821; Mt 7:12 1789, 1970
We all know the Golden Rule.  We have heard it since we were children.  It is similar in intent to the more recent: “What would Jesus do?” We have all heard it, we all know it.  Then why is it so difficult to do in practice?
The difficulty we have in treating others as we want to be treated comes from a couple of different sources within us.  First we take a look at our own motives in life.  We want to have the very best of everything.  We want to have the best material things.  We want to do the best at school, at work, and in our social settings.  In other words, we want to be first, and if we are first others must be second.  How can we treat others with deference when we really want deference from them?  Sitting behind that motive are greed and gluttony.
Next we must look at our natural impulses.  When a person treats us badly, even though Jesus says “turn the other cheek,” we do not enjoy being put in that situation.  Do we treat others who treat us badly the way we want to be treated?  It is unlikely; our natural impulse is to avoid them, or worse, reciprocate with the way we were treated, a kind of inverse application of the Golden Rule. Treat others as you have been treated by them.  Behind these impulses we find wrath and pride.
This being the Lenten Season we need to hold ourselves up to a mirror of faith and ask God, first of all, for forgiveness.  We then must ask him for the strength to do as His Son would do, to be so dominated by our love of others that greed, gluttony, wrath, and pride find no place in us.  We pray that out of our love for others, we find the grace and strength to receive hatred and bitterness with compassion, looking always for the good in others.
The Golden Rule is a difficult rule for us.  We are challenged by the Lord to put on his mind to banish self-serving thoughts and actions, thinking always of God’s greater glory instead of our own.  We pray for the strength and courage to make strides in that direction. It is that path that leads to the Father.

[1] The picture is “Esther” by  François-Léon Benouville, 1844

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