Gospel Reading: Luke 6:36-38
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.37 "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
Old Testament Reading: Daniel 9:4-10
4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances; 6 we have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us confusion of face, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those that are near and those that are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery which they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him, 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
Meditation: Do you pray for God's mercy and pardon for yourself and for those you know who need his mercy? Do you promptly forgive those who wrong you, or do you allow resentment and ill-will to grow in your heart? Daniel was 'shamefaced' before God because he recognized that many of God's people had been unfaithful to God's commands and to his covenant with them (see Daniel 9:4-10). He acknowledged the sins and failings of his own people, and he pleaded with God for compassion and pardon.
When we are confronted with our own sins and personal failings we experience guilt and shame. This can often either lead us to cast off pride and make-belief or it can lead us to lose our inhibitions and fall into more shameless deeds! If we are utterly honest and humble before God, we will admit our own sins and ask for his mercy and forgiveness. The Lord gives help and strength to those who choose to do what is right and to turn away from whatever would lead them into hurtful and sinful desires. Do you know the joy and freedom of heartfelt repentance, forgiveness, and a clean conscience?
Do not judge
Why does Jesus tell his followers to "not judge lest they be judged"? Jesus knew the human heart all too well. We judge too quickly or unfairly with mixed motives, impure hearts, and prejudiced minds. The heart must be cleansed first in order to discern right judgment with grace and mercy rather than with vengeance.
Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD), a wise early Christian teacher and writer, comments on Jesus' exhortation to not condemn:
Do not judge, that is, unjustly, so that you may not be judged, with regard to injustice. With the judgment that you judge shall you be judged. This is like the phrase "Forgive, and it will be forgiven you." For once someone has judged in accordance with justice, he should forgive in accordance with grace, so that when he himself is judged in accordance with justice, he may be worthy of forgiveness through grace. Alternatively, it was on account of the judges, those who seek vengeance for themselves, that he said, "Do not condemn." That is, do not seek vengeance for yourselves. Or, do not judge from appearances and opinion and then condemn, but admonish and advise. (COMMENTARY ON TATIAN'S DIATESSARON 6.18B.)Grace and mercy
How can we possibly love those who cause us grief, harm, or ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who trust in his love and who seek his wisdom and help. The Lord is ready to work in and through us by his Holy Spirit, both to purify our minds and hearts and to help us do what is right, good, and loving in all circumstances. Paul the Apostle reminds us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5) God's love conquers all, even our hurts, injuries, fears, and prejudices. Only the cross of Jesus Christ and his victory over sin can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment, and give us the courage to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Such love and grace has power to heal, restore, and transform us into the image of Christ. Do you know the power of Christ's redeeming love and mercy?
"Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom, pardon, and joy. Transform my heart with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, or make me bitter towards anyone."
8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our forefathers; let
your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name's sake!
10 Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power preserve those doomed to die!
13 Then we your people, the flock of your pasture, will give thanks to you for ever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
A Daily Quote for Lent: The Practice of Mercy, by Augustine of Hippo, 430-543 A.D.
"The practice of mercy is twofold: when vengeance is sacrificed and
when compassion is shown. The Lord included both of these in his brief
sentence: 'Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given
to you.' This work has the effect of purifying the heart, so that, even
under the limitations of this life, we are enabled with pure mind to see
the immutable reality of God. There is something holding us back, which
has to be loosed so that our sight may break through to the light. In connection
with this the Lord said, 'Give alms, and behold, all things are clean to
you.' Therefore the next and sixth step is that cleansing of the heart."
(excerpt from Letter 171A.2)
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.
references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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