March 13, 2017
Monday, Lent Week Two
“Lord, do not deal with us as our sins deserve.”
In the Gospel Jesus is going to tell us, “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” The reading from Daniel 9: 4-10: reminds us how much we ourselves need the compassion Jesus instructs us to give to others.
The Book of Daniel is an example of “apocalyptic” writing, which looks ahead to the “day of the Lord” and to the consummation of history when God, the Lord of history, will ultimately vindicate his people. It was written during a bitter persecution, and its purpose was to strengthen and comfort the Jewish people in their ordeal.
Daniel recognizes that troubles always have causes. Frequently they are brought on by our failures to live by the principles God teaches. Historians say the seeds of ‘World War II were planted in the harsh terms of the peace treaty that ended World War I. The scourge of Islamic terrorism today would not be possible if Moslems had no grounds for perceiving America as the society of the Great Satan because of the values we project. These are not our deepest and truest values, but to the superficial scanner, our media present us as a country of materialism, militarism, violence and sexual license. Our reaction is defensive: we pour billions into national security. Daniel’s reaction was to confess his People’s sins to God:
Ah, Lord... we have sinned and done wrong… acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments.... We have not listened to your servants, who spoke in your name.
His real message, however, is not about us. It is about God: “Yours, O Lord, are compassion and forgiveness.” Every “confession” of sin is a “profession” of faith in God’s values and love.
In Luke 6: 36-38 Jesus tells us to set all our standards by the standards God follows. “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” Then he seems to reverse himself and say that God will match his standards to ours: “for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
The truth is, God never limits his goodness to correspond to ours. When we pray, “Forgive us... as we forgive...” “as” does not mean “in the measure that,” but closer to “while.” We are anticipating the “wedding banquet of the Lamb,” when total reconciliation will reign between all people and with God.
What limits God is our refusal to open ourselves to his generosity. If we close our minds, he cannot enlighten us as he wants. If we close our hearts, he cannot love through us as he will. If we refuse to forgive, he cannot give us his peace. But never, never does he refuse to forgive when we repent, to give when we ask, or to fill us when we admit our emptiness. We already know God’s answer when we pray, “Lord, do not deal with us as our sins deserve.”
Initiative: Listen to the readings. Measure yourself by what you hear.