The Gospel according to Luke (Luke 12:54-59)
Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain—and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot—and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Opening Prayer: As I come into your presence today, I make my own the prayer of today’s psalm: Teach me wisdom and knowledge, Lord, because I trust in you, who are good and bountiful. Teach me to follow you more closely, to love you more deeply, to know you more fully.
Encountering Christ: The Church Fathers offer many different interpretations of this passage. Among them, Saint Bede says that our “opponent” can be seen as the Word of God, in the sense that the Word of God makes war upon our weaknesses and sins. When we listen to the Word of God, our Lord will convict us of our faults so that we can reconcile our lives with the Truth of the Word of God Himself.
When you think about God’s holy Word, in its entirety, what most convicts you? Sometimes we try to downplay such personal convictions. We rationalize our actions and dismiss what God is saying to us. Are there any teachings of Jesus that you recall that have truly stung you to the heart? If so, this is a grace, and it’s an opportunity to fulfill the lesson from our Lord taught in the passage above.
God does not convict our hearts so as to condemn us. Rather, He convicts us, as an opponent to our sin, so that we can “make an effort to settle the matter on the way.” The conscience is a wonderful gift from our Lord and can be likened to this passage above. It is a form of courtroom where our Lord desires not to have to issue punishment upon us. Instead, He desires that we engage His holy Word, listen to what He says, and settle our sin by repenting immediately.
Among the many lessons taught by our Lord, it is often the lesson that jumps out at us, even in a startling way, that we need to pay attention to the most. God often brings His most urgent teachings to us by causing us to feel a sense of guilt that cannot be denied. If we listen to these convictions, then we will not have any need to stand before the Judge. But if we do not, if we bury these convictions, downplay them and ignore them, then our Lord will find it necessary to keep at us. We will begin to experience His judgment, and we will see the effects of being out of His good graces. And in the end, if we fail to repent of the more serious sins in our lives, then we will even be held accountable for the smallest of sins. We will be required to “pay the last penny.”
Closing Prayer: My most merciful Judge, You desire that I listen to Your holy Word, revealed through Scripture, so as to receive Your most merciful conviction of my sin. I pray that I will be open to always hear all that You desire to say to me so that I can respond with generosity and trust, reconciling with You and others continually through my journey in life. Enliven my conscience with Your holy Word, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
Action: Lord, today by your grace I will take a step toward reconciliation in a relationship that has been festering. If I have no such relationships, I will make a visit to the Eucharist and pray to Jesus for those who do have such relationships.