Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Reflection: You can all comfortablybreathe a huge sigh of relief, just as the Disciples and all of the other followers of Jesus did after they heard this. “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” When we read this, we become empowered with the strength of the Holt Spirit knowing that the confidence in our mind and the warmheartedness, we felt in our soul, is true. Jesus is, preparing us and the Disciples, for that moment, soon to come, that will shake that confidence to the very core of our hearts. To give us this beautiful soul, the Son of God, and then to watch the brutal end of his human body…. all for us, will test our trust, in that same God. But following Our Lord in this life also requires us to adhere to His laws and experiencing sometimes painful changes to our thoughts and actions as we are slowly transformed into the saints he calls us to be. It also adds to the immense responsibility that is given to each of us to live and obey the commandments he has given, to each of us, to uphold. Our baptism anointed us all to be Priest, Prophet, and King.
Action of the Day: This week test yourself by reviewing, with your family, the Ten Commandments. Can you name them all from memory, by heart, and how well are you living them as they are interpreted in this day and age. Where can you grow and improve in your quest to be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
The Lenten season is about new life, forgiveness and reconciliation. We all agree on that, right? One of the sources I use for background on these reflections, the Irish Jesuits, suggested a point that I hadn’t really thought of in regard to that view of Lent. Today’s Gospel highlights that point, too – the Irish Jesuits observed, “forgiveness is a unilateral act. Reconciliation is not.” It’s a good point to ponder from today’s Gospel and as we continue our walk through Lent.
Each of us is called to choose to forgive. Peter, in today’s Gospel, asks if he has to forgive another “even seven times”. In Peter’s mind, forgiving seven times is a LOT! Is it enough? No. One of the other accounts of this conversation has Jesus not suggesting forgiving *only* seventy-seven times, but seventy TIMES seven times (490 times!). Is Jesus actually saying that we should keep some kind of tab on how many times we forgive? Of course not.
The real lesson at play here is that we are to forgive and forgive and forgive AGAIN, and never tire of doing so, because our Lord is that way with us. There is no tally sheet in the confessional for us to watch. God forgives simply because we ask. The king in today’s story forgave and the servant, even after receiving that forgiveness, failed to forgive his fellow servant.
We are called to forgive, and we should. That is the main thing we are called to do between us and our God, and we receive absolution (forgiveness) by Jesus in the person of the priest. That is true reconciliation, as if we are truly sorry for our sins, God is truly merciful and forgives. But, between us human beings, there can be forgiveness without reconciliation. We can forgive another for some harmful action, but if that person isn’t sorry, there can’t be true reconciliation.
Those are very hard situations, indeed. We are called to forgive, and to pray that the other will also take responsibility and say that they are sorry. Whether they ever do that is up to that other person. Forgiveness is up to us. Let us ask God today to help us, if we have someone we need to forgive. Forgiveness is not saying that the hurtful act is “okay” – no, it is just saying that we won’t let that bitterness keep poisoning us from the inside.
During this Lent, let us seek to find that peace that comes from forgiveness.
Action for the Day:
Take a moment today and consider if there is someone who has wronged you whom you have not forgiven. Ask God to give you the grace to forgive, and to let that wrong go, and to trust that He will sustain you to heal from it.
If you would like to hear this reflection, click the link below!
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Reflection: These words scare me, “When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury”. Today’s scripture is illustrating the violence in our lives. I am not only speaking about violence in the city we live in but in our home, in this case, the synagogue, which is our church.
How many times have you heard or seen dissention in our church? It could be anything from small disagreements to something bigger. And then, the people try to unite others to fight or protest this disagreement. Wouldn’t it be easier to apologize and talk it out? Sometimes making small / simple acts like that is hard for us because we want to seek revenge. That process could take forever, and you probably will never seek satisfaction.
We sit in our church and pray for healing, forgiveness, and a stronger faith but yet we tend to judge. A big part of it comes from listening or reading the news media which only tells you what they want you to see so you could support their view. For example, the death of our dear brother and Bishop, David O’Connell. We immediately want someone to blame and seek revenge. The Gospel uses the words, “hurl him down headlong”. How hard is it just to grieve, mourn our loss and pray, pray hard! One of the most beautiful things that occurred after his death was that a Novena started the day after his death. Now that’s coming together as a church in a positive way. I have no doubt that’s what Bishop Dave would do but he would take it one more step further. He would pray for the person that killed him. That is the only way that we could heal. It’s not seeking revenge.
In this life of mine and yours, and especially during this Lenten season, we need to seek patience, forgiveness, love, and faith when we face controversy. I am not referring just to the people we know at church and home, but I am referring to strangers. It takes effort and it certainly isn’t easy to do that.
In today’s scripture, the people in question here were jealous of their community of faith. Jesus was including all nationalities in the care and the saving love of God. They were jealous of their own relationship with God and used it in many ordinary ways to keep others out of favor, off land and denied human rights to anyone outside their circle. Jesus is the one of universal welcome, his heart open in prayer and life to all, no matter their creed, nation, gender, age, or any of the categories with which we are divided from each other.
Action of the Day: Find some time today or throughout the day to identify your weaknesses. Then pray to Our Father to seek help to eradicate them.
The Holy Gospel according to Matthew (21:33-43, 45-46)
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
Reflection: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them.” Anytime we read and reflect on the words of Our Lord, we know he is speaking directly to us. What about this parable, how does it speak to us? We are the tenants in this parable. Each one of us has been given a vineyard by God, our families, our communities, our work, our church. God gives us everything we need to make our vineyard flourish. What are some things that keep us from making our vineyards flourish? Our pride, our selfishness and our sinfulness make us less receptive of God. We want to live our own lives as we like, and make our personal decisions in our own interest. We find it hard to adjust our living fully to Christ. Our Lord lets us manage the vineyard as we choose, but we do not own the vineyard. We will have to give up what it produces at the time of reckoning.
Action of the day: Almsgiving is part of our Lenten journey. We are called by God to produce good fruits in his vineyard. What fruits will we produce during our life? How are we using the good gifts we have been given? May we pray to God, our Father, to help us make good use of the gifts we have been blessed with to help those less fortunate than us.
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
So, how is your lent going? Do you find yourself struggling with your intentions to change or augment something, deny yourself of the things in life that are keeping you from spiritual growth. Or, maybe, you are flourishing and making changes according to a well thought out and implemented plan to change. My guess is most of us are experiencing the former not the latter. And if you are, you are not alone.
A priest once shared something that I think will help us keep a good perspective. He said he had two men who were both confessing the sin of adultery. One would come in every week, like clockwork, and ask for forgiveness because he had been unfaithful to his wife. This went on for weeks, months, indefinitely. The priest decided to admonish the man for his apparent lack of contrition. He told him it appeared he had no intention of changing his ways and so to reconsider returning to the confessional if he was not sincere in his desire to repent. A second man had confessed the same sin on a somewhat regular basis but then did not return for many months. Then, one day, distraught and regretful, he comes in and laments as he confesses infidelity. The priest counseled the man and after some discussion regarding his battle with his sin could tell he was truly sorry. The second man not only wanted to change but was trying to avoid this sin.
Today’s gospel is a sobering reminder that it is too easy to get stuck in a pattern of sinful behavior that can lead us so far away from salvation. In our lifetime we are given endless opportunities to change our sinful tendencies. It is up to us to cooperate with the grace of God, and with sincere and repentant hearts, endeavor to change, mostly, a little at a time. But with much prayer, God’s mercy, and his infinite love we can stay the course all the way home into the loving arms of Our Father.
Action of the day: Let us pray for each other as we try to move, ever so slightly, toward the light and love of Christ. Let us lift each other up so that whatever obstacles are keeping us from a fruitful Lenten journey may be removed. We need each other now more than ever. No one walks in the desert alone. We are one body in Christ. May God have mercy on us. Amen.