21 March 2017
Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:
Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.
But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.
Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.
Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.
‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt.
Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?”
And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’
May the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you as holocausts of rams and bullocks: such let our sacrifice be to you today.
How deep can my human love go for my husband? It is a question that goes hand-in-hand with: how deep does my forgiveness flow? Today’s readings shone a light on my tendency to practice conditional love and conditional forgiveness, chiefly to myself. This tendency is so natural to me, that I believe it will be a long and arduous process of tooling from God’s divine hand to shape me more into His Son’s image. How can I cooperate – better?
Lent had begun for me before Lent had even begun. This was the sentiment I had as this season drew near. By this I mean that I had entered a soul-wilderness that I did not welcome, no matter how much spiritual effort I put in (whether with fervor or bland duty). On the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, I walked past the large, shut wooden doors of my church and felt a longing to step in, as I thought about my Lenten plan to spend more time in Eucharistic Adoration. But I was on my way to a potluck, and so I made mental plans to find time on Friday morning to visit Jesus.
As I stepped out into the freezing Bostonian cold that night after the potluck, I was waylaid by a cheerful voice inviting me to “Pray? Light a candle? Or just step in and keep warm!” A tug in my heart told me to enter. So I walked through the narthex, down the nave, and caught my breath, as I saw our Lord’s True Presence in the Blessed Sacrament upon the altar.
Floating down the nave towards the front pews, I knelt, began to pray, and was filled with contrition. I was awestruck and disarmed, but also humbled and sorrowful over the distance (I realized) I had put between God and myself. Feeling ‘not good enough’ in my spiritual progress and the eradication of my flaws, I was alienated by my self-judgment. Thus flowed the thoughts in my head: bouncing between joy and surrender, and enumerating my petty trespasses before Christ. Until I felt a warm, steady voice say:
+ I am here for you.
“But I am not done with my list…”
+ Be quiet. Just let me love you.
And just like that, I fell silent and listened. These were waves. Waves upon waves, that flooded my need to speak. Even as I gasped for air to respond, His waves would not let me breathe. I simply had to give myself up and surrender to the love of Jesus flowing over me. I had to be quiet, so that I could be loved.
The contrite soul is itself the purest form of sacrifice God asks of any one of us who love Him. A humbled spirit is as worthy and pleasing to Him as any oblation, incense, or material sacrifice – as the Prophet Daniel says. This Lent, although we might have absent-mindedly selected ‘low-hanging fruit’ sacrifices or abstinences, there is an even greater value at this point to pause and enter into deeper examination of our spiritual health. A quietly contrite heart is the first portal by which we enter into true communion with Him.
God’s mercy is wider and deeper than any ocean. His waves of mercy are already offered to us, pressing onto the closed door of our hearts. We only need to unlatch this door through humble self-reflection – our contrite spirit will pry these door leaves wide open, allowing His forgiveness to gush in and cleanse our hearts. If you only let Him love you.
“There is a need for Christian forgiveness, which instills hope and trust without weakening the struggle against evil. There is a need to give and receive mercy. But we cannot forgive if we do not let God forgive us first, recognizing that it is we who are the object of his mercy. We will be ready to forgive the debts of others only if we become aware of the enormous debt that we ourselves have been forgiven.” (Pope St John Paul II, Angelus, Sunday, 29 March 1998)*
It happened to me that night — God’s invitation to shush my inner chatter, so that He could love me. By allowing myself to be forgiven, and accepting God’s grace, I could open the valves of my heart to more freely forgive others who have hurt me.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: We pray for the gift of inner silence this Lent, in order to contemplate the gravity of forgiveness Christ’s sacrifice has wrought for us. We pray for the generosity of heart to receive forgiveness, in order that we may become channels of forgiveness to others.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always leaving your light on for me.