Reflections

Friday in the 1st Week of Lent, February 26, 2021

Personal Responsibility—Eucharist and Reconciliation
Introduction
Often we blame the community and “the system” for the evils of society and for the sins we commit. This shrugging off of responsibility is a timeless device of escape. Christ dealt with it and so did Ezekiel before him. Ezekiel tells us: you are personally responsible for your sins and you must repent; if so, God takes you back in his love. Jesus tells us: not the law but your personal attitude and intention counts. True worship does not consist in private, self-centered religious practice but in being committed to Christ’s task of reconciliation and service of people.
 
Opening Prayer
God of mercy and compassion,
you challenge us to be responsible
for the good and the evil we do
and you call us to conversion.
God, help us to face ourselves
that we may not use flimsy excuses
for covering up our wrongs.
Make us honest with ourselves,
and aware that we can always count on Jesus Christ
to be our guide and strength on the road to you,
now and for ever. Amen!
 
1 Reading: Ezekiel 18:21-28
Thus says the Lord GOD: If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced. Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live? And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live? None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin; because of this, he shall die. You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
 
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7A, 7BC-8
R. (3) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication. R.
 
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered. R.
 
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
Let Israel wait for the LORD. R.
 
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities. R.
 
Gospel Acclamation: Ezekiel 18:31
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
 
Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
 
Commentary
Ezekiel today presents an interesting picture of conversion: one can be converted to good or to evil. The individual has to make the choice. The prophet makes a strong appeal to leave evil behind and embrace the good.
And what does our Gospel say apropos of this topic? It centers wholly on forgiveness, even things that we might consider of secondary importance. But the Gospel does not consider forgive-ness secondary. Any spirit of anger, which means holding on to an injury, is excluded. When anger is allowed to fester, the situation worsens, often with forms of invective foreign to the Christian spirit. We are told not to come before the Lord in worship until peace is made. Christians should avoid public litigation and make every effort to settle out of court.
Some people say, “I will forgive, but I won’t forget.” Very human, natural, this may look, it is incomplete forgiveness. In the course of daily life, differences and disagreements are inevitable. But a spirit of animosity gains us nothing and is a constant reproach to our conscience. Often in public prayer we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. We pray that this be a blessing and not a reproach.
 
Intercessions
• For the Church, that it may be a merciful Church that takes its task of reconciliation seriously and keeps forgiving its erring members with patience, we pray:
• For all of us, that we dare to take the first step to forgive when others have hurt us, we pray:
• For our communities, that the Eucharist may prompt us to forgive one another and to care for people who go astray, we pray:
 
Prayer over the Gifts
Merciful Father,
your Son Jesus comes among us
to reconcile us with you.
May he stay with us
to carry out in the world
your mission of reconciling people
with you and with one another.
Give us the courage of the humility
to seek pardon and peace
from anyone we may have offended,
in the strength of Jesus Christ,
your Son and our Lord for ever. Amen!
 
Prayer after Communion
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you ask us to be personally responsible
for our own deeds
and for our share in those of the community.
May this Eucharistic celebration
be a source of insight and strength
to take up our tasks as followers of Jesus.
May our deeds match our words
and may we thus express
our thanks and love to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
 
Blessing
Resentment and grudge-bearing is not for us Christians, however much we may have been hurt. We are forgiven people, and therefore we should be forgiving people, with the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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