Readings and Reflection for March 3, Friday of the First Week of Lent

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FIRST READING
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18:21-28)

Thus says the Lord God: “If a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just. ’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

The word of the Lord.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM Psalm 130:1-2.3-4.5-7a.7bc-8 (R. 3)
R/. If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

Out of the depths I cry to you,
O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the sound of my pleading. R/.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you is found forgiveness,
that you may be revered. R/.

R/. If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

I long for you, O Lord,
my soul longs for his word.
My soul hopes in the Lord
more than watchmen for daybreak.
More than watchmen for daybreak,
let Israel hope for the Lord. R/.

For with the Lord there is mercy,
in him is plentiful redemption.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities. R/.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL Ezekiel 18:31
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, says the Lord, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

GOSPEL
Go first and be reconciled to your brother.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 5:20-26)

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgement. ’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool! ’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

TODAY’S REFLECTION
The most difficult word in the Bible is forgiving. If we are to be very sincere with ourselves, we would realize that forgiveness (reconciliation with people who have something against us) is easier said than done. Even though we pray the Lord’s Prayer every day, only one line rings a bell in us: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We never pause to meditate on the line that says: “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We so gloss over this line that we do not even think it is part of “Our Father.” Mind you, we do not pray: “as we plan to forgive…” or “as we hope to forgive…”. What we pray is “as we forgive…” This means each time we pray with un-forgiveness, hatred, or bitterness still in our hearts, we are lying to God. We are claiming to have done something when we haven’t done it. No wonder Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:23 that we should not even come to God to offer our gifts if our hearts are not completely clean from hate. Reconciliation for Jesus is more important than offertory. I may be the highest donor in church, the best singer, or the best preacher but if there are still people I am quarreling with, my worship of God is corrupt.

“How do I forgive?” you might ask. The book of Ezekiel 18:21-25 contains a clue. The prophet tells us how God behaves. God does not relate with us according to our past! God does not keep records of our past whether good or bad. God is the God of this moment. God is able to forgive us because he constantly dies in the past. In other words, if we are to forgive, we must develop the habit of dying every moment of our past. This is not easy but with a bit of practice, it is possible.

Die to the Past every minute, forgive to make your heart cleaner and shining so that there is room for God to enter still and speak to you, let go; we brought nothing to this world, and we shall leave with nothing. If I refuse to let go now, my death will force me to let go so why wait till then? Let go and let God take care of things.

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