Monday, March 9, 2009

LORD, do not deal with us according to our sins!

A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel:

LORD, great and awesome God. You never waver in your commitment to be merciful to those who love you and obey you. But we have sinned against you in every way imaginable. We have ignored the clearly marked signs showing us the way we should go, and pointed out the dangers on the road. We have turned a deaf ear to the prophets who preached your Word to our leaders, our teachers, our parents, our priests and prophets and to all the people in our land.

LORD, you’ve done all you could, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame. All of us: our political leaders, our religious leaders, our parents, ourselves. We have been exposed in our guilt, before the whole world. Deservedly so, because we have sinned.

LORD, in rebellion we have forfeited our rights, and if you exercise your justice, you could destroy us. When you told us how to live, through the teaching of your servants the prophets, we paid no attention. We defied their warnings and did what we pleased. And now, we’re paying the price for our disobedience.
A Psalm of David:

Response: LORD, do not deal with us according to our sins!

LORD, do not remember the wickedness of the past; but be merciful to us, for we have been brought low.

Help us, God our savior, for the glory of your name. Forgive us, and pardon our sins, for the sake of your own name.

LORD, we come before you like prisoners who have been condemned to death. Be merciful to us, since Mercy is your name. Then we, the people you have chosen to be your own, will be grateful to you forever. All generations to come will declare your praise.

Response: LORD, do not deal with us according to our sins!

A reading from the Gospel according to Luke:

Jesus said to his disciples: Be merciful to others, since your Father is merciful to you. Don’t judge others, since you don’t want God to judge you. Don’t be unfair in dealing with others, since you want God to be fair in dealing with you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you. If you are generous with others, you can expect God to be generous with you. In brief, treat others in the same way you want God to treat you.  


I have heard, over the years, some of the most merciless of sermons about God’s mercy. “If we refuse mercy now, we will have to deal with justice in eternity.” Or, “A God who is all-merciful is an unjust God”. And the most egregious of all: “Mercy is not for those who sin and fear not, but for those who fear and sin not.”

Yet, doesn’t it seem that those conditions are written into today’s readings? “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged.” “Forgive, and you will be forgiven”. “The measure you mete out will be measured back to you”. These phrases certainly appear to say that if you do judge, you will be judged; if you withhold forgiveness, you will be refused forgiveness; God will only be as merciful to you as you are to others.

Think of it this way: If you don’t give, you won’t receive. The cup that measures what you can receive is the cup you use when you are giving. The vessel that holds the forgiveness you exercise is the vessel that will be used to hold the forgiveness you receive. If I refuse to give, or to forgive, I am acting according to my weak and sinful human nature, but I am ignoring the gift I received in baptism, which has been confirmed in me, and has nourished me, and has forgiven me in the other sacraments – received, confirmed, nourished and forgiven not because of anything I have deserved – or could deserve – but simply because God is merciful. God does not limit divine mercy; we limit our capacity to receive it, when we fail to be grateful for his gift, and especially when we deny it to others.

Not Judging Even Ourselves
The anxiety and grief you feel from realizing your nothingness is not pleasant; for although the cause is good, the effect is not. No, my dear daughter, this knowledge of our nothingness should not trouble us, but should have a soothing, humbling and chastening effect; it is self-esteem which makes us impatient at seeing ourselves as vile and abject. Come now, I entreat you by the love of him whom we both love, of Jesus Christ, to live consoled and peaceful in your weakness. “I glory in my weakness”, says the great Saint Paul, “so that the power of my Savior may dwell in me.” Yes, indeed! For our misery is a throne to make manifest the sovereign goodness of Our Lord. (St. Francis de Sales – Introduction to the Devout Life)

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