Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:7-15
7 "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread; 12 And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; 13 And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
10 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Meditation: Do you believe that God's word has power to change and transform your life today? Isaiah says that God's word is like the rain and melting snow which makes the barren ground spring to life and become abundantly fertile (Isaiah 55:10-11). God's word has power to penetrate our dry barren hearts and make them springs of new life. If we let God's word take root in our heart it will transform us into the likeness of God himself and empower us to walk in his way of love and holiness. God wants his word to guide and shape the way we think, act, and pray. Ambrose (339-397 AD), an early church father and bishop of Milan, wrote that the reason we should devote time for reading Scripture is to hear Christ speak to us. "Are you not occupied with Christ? Why do you not talk with him? By reading the Scriptures, we listen to Christ."
We can approach God confidently because he is waiting with arms wide open to receive his prodigal sons and daughters. That is why Jesus gave his disciples the perfect prayer that dares to call God, Our Father. This prayer teaches us how to ask God for the things we really need, the things that matter not only for the present but for eternity as well. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because the Lord Jesus has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, God responds with grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. He is good and forgiving towards us, and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. God has poured his love into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). And that love is like a refining fire - it purifies and burns away all prejudice, hatred, resentment, vengeance, and bitterness until there is nothing left but goodness and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief or harm.
Consider what John Cassian (360-435 AD), an early church father who lived for several years with the monks in Bethlehem and Egypt before founding a monastery in southern Gaul, wrote about the Lord's Prayer and the necessity of forgiving one another from the heart:
"The mercy of God is beyond description. While he is offering us a model prayer he is teaching us a way of life whereby we can be pleasing in his sight. But that is not all. In this same prayer he gives us an easy method for attracting an indulgent and merciful judgment on our lives. He gives us the possibility of ourselves mitigating the sentence hanging over us and of compelling him to pardon us. What else could he do in the face of our generosity when we ask him to forgive us as we have forgiven our neighbor? If we are faithful in this prayer, each of us will ask forgiveness for our own failings after we have forgiven the sins of those who have sinned against us, not only those who have sinned against our Master. There is, in fact, in some of us a very bad habit. We treat our sins against God, however appalling, with gentle indulgence - but when by contrast it is a matter of sins against us ourselves, albeit very tiny ones, we exact reparation with ruthless severity. Anyone who has not forgiven from the bottom of the heart the brother or sister who has done him wrong will only obtain from this prayer his own condemnation, rather than any mercy."Do you treat others as you think they deserve to be treated, or do you treat them as the Lord has treated you - with mercy, steadfast love, and kindness?
"Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart and mind with your truth and love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Help me to be kind and forgiving towards my neighbor as you have been towards me."
Psalm 34:4-7, 16-19
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
16 The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
A Daily Quote for Lent: Pardon your brother and sister, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Pardon, that you may be pardoned. In doing this, nothing is required of the body. It is the will that acts. You will experience no physical pain - you will have nothing less in your home. Now in truth, my brothers and sisters, you see what an evil it is that those who have been commanded to love even their enemy do not pardon a penitent brother or sister." (quote from Sermon 210,10)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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