Friday 11 March 2022 – Turn over a new leaf

1st week of lent

1st Reading: Ez 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.

Gospel: Mt 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.”

Turn over a new leaf : What an energy loss. He is an enemy, a problem, my nemesis. We consider at least a few as thorn in the flesh. How much of energy is lost in thinking about him, how to deal with him. If I could, I would have taken him out of the scene. But when I can’t, anger burns inside me, bitterness foam in me. Your whole day is spent in hostility. The chilling reality is that most of our waking hours are spent in hostile thoughts. Offer a fig leave, make bridges and get into talking ways. Bitterness prolonged harms the person in the long run. Positive energy is lost by the way side. No creative efforts emerge from you. Single, defining hallmark of a Christian must be his eagerness to get reconciled. Your sacrifices and offertories at the altar turn fruitless without that. Jesus gives a clarion call for change, forgiveness and making amends for your failures. Let us allow fresh energy run into our system, forgiving and forgetting other’s trespasses.

Prayer: Lord our God, help me reestablish that rhythm of the society with my simple efforts.

*****

GOD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS: One of the central themes in the Gospel of Matthew is righteousness. The Pharisees and scribes, narrowly defined righteousness as obedience to the law. Perhaps, this is not very different from the way most of us define righteousness in our own days. Nevertheless, Jesus challenges that: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” Our righteousness consists in going beyond the law; follow the spirit of the law. Give others more than what is due. Yet, it is our own response to the loving mercy of God that will justify us. It is God who makes us righteous (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11), and it is important to be righteous in the eyes of God (Lk 18:13).

****

CONSISTENCY BEGETS EXCELLENCE: Have you ever lost steam of anything midway into it? Consistency in anything demands depth of character. An understanding of what you believe in is a good foundation for your faith. Our faith is not to be largely irrational. On the contrary, we must seek the understanding of what we believe. Many Catholics depart from Catholicism for never having grasped the depth of the Catholic faith. When we understand, we will be more consistent and realistic. Then we are able to sustain our good works beyond the good times. As the prophet warns, when a good man is not consistent and falls into sin he must bear the consequences of his inconsistency. However, when the bad man departs from his wickedness and embraces goodness, he too must enjoy the benefits of his conversion. It is great to start strong; but it is much better to finish stronger, and the latter is possible when we are steady and consistent. Thus, weep not about a bad start, nor should gloat over an excellent beginning. Winners are declared at the end of the race.