Monday, March 20, 2017

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

The picture is “Christ on the Cross” 
by Jacques-Louis David, 1782
Reading I: Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Commentary on Dn 3:25, 34-43
The reading from Daniel is the Prayer of Azariah (Abednego), one of Daniel's three companions who were thrown into the furnace at the command of King Nebuchadnezzar because they would not worship the idol made of gold, which the king had made.
Azariah’s prayer is for the whole people of Israel, who are in dire straits. The final verses of the prayer express the penitential ideal, that God will accept a humble and contrite heart in lieu of the animal sacrifice required of their tradition at that time. (see also Psalm 51:18-19Joel 2:13)
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
R. (6a) Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Psalm 25 is an individual lament. The sinful psalmist prays that “Your ways” be made known. This request directs us to repentance and ultimately justice. In the first strophe of this hymn, we hear support for our belief that God answered the prayers of our ancient ancestors. Their trust was justified. The song continues as an individual prayer asking for guidance and salvation.
Commentary on Mt 18:21-35
This passage begins with the discourse on “Forgiveness.” Peter asks the question that paraphrases one asked in the book of Genesis by Lamech (Genesis 4:24). He is looking for guidance in the form of a finite amount of forgiveness, and in answer receives the command that forgiveness must be infinite (represented by the multiples of seven and ten).
To emphasize this need for forgiveness, the Lord launches into the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. The moral of this particular parable is the measure we use to judge others is the same measure that will be used by God to measure us, when we come before him. “The model is the forgiveness of God, which knows no limit; and neither should man's forgiveness. If man does not forgive, he cannot expect forgiveness; if he does not renounce his own claims, which are small, he cannot ask God to dismiss the claims against him.”[4]
CCC: Mt 18:21-22 982, 2227, 2845; Mt 18:23-35 2843
We recently reflected about the differences between the good and moral person and the Christian. Scripture today causes us to focus on another tenet of our faith – forgiveness. A question for you: can a good and moral person be considered so if they do not forgive a person who has wronged them? We propose that in the terms of society, the answer is “yes.” Going even further, a good and moral person would not be faulted for using the legal system to seek retribution from one who had wronged them using all the means at their disposal, attempting to gain monetarily from the situation.
If we call ourselves Christian, as a people who follow the teaching and example of Christ, we are called to go beyond even simple forgiveness. By simple forgiveness we mean communicating forgiveness to one who has wronged us, but holding anger in our hearts for the injustice for which, at some future time, we might exact revenge. Christ says the same thing: simple forgiveness is not enough; he  calls us to forgiveness from the heart. It is a difficult thing, and we must differentiate forgiveness of a person and acceptance of a deed.
Just as a parent chastises a child for doing something wrong, but loves the child who did it, we are called to, as the saying goes, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Sometimes this can be very difficult because we associate the sinner with the sin. For example we might find it very difficult to love Adam Gadahn. Gadahn, 31, an American of Jewish descent was born Adam Pearlman in California. He has been called the "American face of Jihad," after producing numerous videos allegedly for Al Qaeda. He was deemed a traitor by the U.S. and in Oct. 2006 he was indicted for treason and giving aid and comfort to terrorists after the testimony of an FBI agent. Such a person we might feel was inherently dangerous to us, one so twisted by hate that forgiveness would not be an option. Yet, we are asked to love Adam and mourn his fall from grace as his parents would, but certainly his native faith community would not. Forgiveness is the commandment of Christ whose ultimate forgiveness we celebrate daily. It is that uniquely Christian call, at the heart of our actions, which labels us a “Christian”.
Today we are asked to be a people of forgiveness. We are called to go beyond legal justice, to Christ’s justice which included forgiveness even for his own crucifixion. By setting this standard in our lives, we are assured that the same mercy and forgiveness will be shown to us as we stand before the Great Judge on the last day.

[1] The picture is “Christ on the Cross” by Jacques-Louis David, 1782
[4] Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 43; 127

No comments: