In the Entrance Antiphon (from Daniel 3:31) today we acknowledge God’s Rightful Justice in condemning sin, while also expressing our faith that, should we repent, there is no limit to His Loving Forgiveness.
Ezekiel (18:25-28), warns the Israelites that, having chosen what is manifestly against God’s Will, it is illogical and unjust to blame God for the consequences arising from their sins, actions through which they have chosen to leave the safe road of loving obedience. How often do we hear someone (maybe ourselves) ask, “Why did God do this (make this happen) to me?” when the question should be, “Why did I let go of God’s protecting Hand to do what He has told me is wrong?” As we know well, God has given each one of us a spiritual Soul, Intelligence, Reason and Free will; in His Love he will not force us to ‘do as we are told’; to attain Heaven (or not to) is our choice! We suffer, in this world, because of the wrongful choices made by ourselves and others.
We will reach Heaven by heading determinedly God’s Way, however challenging; by God’s Grace we will recover from falls into sin along the way, ‘picking ourselves up’ and continuing the journey! In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps.24) we cry out, ‘Remember your Mercy, Lord’ but honesty compels us to acknowledge that God, in His Infinite Goodness, is constantly showing us the way we must go. It is we who are the forgetful ones, not God. We can stay on the safe path or, thinking, with the worldly-wise, that we ‘know better’, head into mortal danger!
Saint Paul (Phil 2: 1-11) urges us to go forward, in union with our Saviour, and with each other. We are not to consider ourselves superior in any way to others; We are not ‘in competition’ with our Brothers and Sisters, who we should consider before ourselves, neither may we presume to judge them. We must look honestly at our own shortcomings. Judgement is to be left to God Who, alone knows us ‘...through and through...’. Paul holds before us the supreme example, Jesus, the most reliable rôle model we have. To reach our Heavenly Home, we must model our lives on Christ’s. His earthly Life, lived in loving and humble submission to the Father and leading to His Passion, Death and Resurrection, is our guarantee that we will, having done our best in life, one day, be greeted in Heaven by Him Who re-opened the way closed by Adam and Eve.
In the Alleluia Verse we, again, affirm the vital necessity of backing up our declarations of love for God by living as He has wisely decreed. If we strive to go steadfastly towards God, we cannot fail to meet Him in Heaven!
In the Gospel (Mt. 21:28-32), Jesus, in the parable of the two sons, makes it very clear that ‘actions speak louder than words’. However much of an outward ‘show’ one may make of being a Christian, in the end it is the effort made which will tell. As the Saints have demonstrated, Peter and Paul among them, while one cannot guarantee that one will live a consistently perfect life it is those who, having the humility to recognise, repent of and correct their faults, however much they may, in consequence, be ‘looked down upon’ by others, who will ‘…endure to the end…’ and ‘…be saved..’.
In the Entrance Antiphon today we are reminded that the Lord is ‘…Saviour of all people…’ who, unlike even the best intentioned earthly friend, will be ‘…always there…’ and, very significantly, is unlimited in His ability to help us through life. We are expected, of course, to actively seek and use these opportunities to attain Salvation!
Isaiah (55:6-9), very wisely, urges us to seize every opportunity offered us by our Creator while we live on Earth, and ‘Seek the Lord while He is still to be found’. Until we draw our final breath we can, should we sin, repent and be assured of God’s Forgiveness; not that we should gamble our eternity on living apart from God and ‘getting in at the last moment’. God, who is so superior to His creatures, nevertheless leaves the final choice with us! As the Responsorial Psalm (From Ps. 144), recalls to mind, God ‘…is close to all who call Him….” How aware are we of our constant need to examine our conscience and make sure that we are not living in ways that take us further away from God?
Saint Paul (Phil. 1:20-24, 27), while looking with longing towards his entry into Heaven, acknowledges that, while he lives on earth, he has a vital role (as does each one of us) to play in the Salvation of Mankind. Paul’s ‘rule of thumb’ for the here and now, which will stand us in good stead when we die, is to keep from anything in our everyday life which will set us off in an opposing direction to God. Our Saviour, knowing our weaknesses, has left us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through which we can, as long as life lasts, keep close to or even return to God. God, who clearly sees our exact knowledge of good and evil and our intentions, cannot lose any soul which, in all honesty, has striven to be faithful to Him.
Previously we have recalled our duty to correct error. Today we look at a basic condition for being, ourselves, forgiven by God, which is that we forgive, ‘…those who trespass against us’. Straight away, not mincing his words, the writer of Ecclesiasticus condemns emotions which so often set up barriers to our forgiving those who hurt or offend us: “Resentment and anger…foul things…found with the sinner.” Whilst we must certainly ‘hate the sin’ we know that we must ‘love the sinner’. If we set ourselves up to judge and condemn any person, we become, in a way, like them. We are presented with the undeniable logic that we cannot reasonably expect God to approve plans to ‘get our own back’ for wrongs done to us, or to be able to show us Compassion if we deny this to our Neighbour. The extract finishes with what is (or should be) a chilling reminder that, as we deal with offences from our fellow humans, so will the same, in justice, be meted out to us at our Judgement!
The Responsorial Psalm highlights the attributes of our Creator, “…compassion…love…slow to anger…rich in mercy”, which, in spite of our fallen nature can, should we wish, sustain us in the ups and downs of life.
Saint Paul, writing to the Romans, simply reminds us that both here on earth and in the hereafter, we are all God’s creatures and, however much we may think that we live in ‘our own little bubble’, each life lived has an effect on others. How often do we think of this? Do we attract others to God, or do we undermine their search for the Truth? Do those around us, seeking meaning and purpose in life, perceive that we look, as the Alleluia verse proclaims, to God Who, alone, can bring us to Eternal Happiness?
In the Gospel our Lord, very emphatically, removes any limits to forgiveness. In a dramatic Parable, He delivers a stern warning that, just as the servant who refused to forgive a comparatively ‘trivial’ debt owed by a fellow servant was, as a result, severely punished for his own much greater debt to his Master, so our own forgiveness (or not) will determine the Judgement we receive at the end of our life.
We need to recognise, of course, that Jesus is not saying that we shall not be wronged, perhaps deeply, during the course of our life. We may well be unable to forget grave wrongs done to us or our loved ones. We must, however (and we have some profoundly moving examples following recent terrorist murders) strive to forgive, whatever effort this may cost, those who have set out to hurt us. We may well recall, also, how the Mother of Saint Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro, who had attempted to rape and had then killed her daughter, Maria (who also had forgiven him on her deathbed). Also the example of Saint Pope John Paul II who, following his life-saving treatment in hospital, visited Mehmet Ali Ağca, his would-be murderer, in prison, publicly forgiving this man who had shot him with the intention of killing him. How many examples might we, personally, recall of, perhaps, very ‘costly’ forgiveness?
The Responsorial Psalm highlights our innate obstinacy, or hardness of heart, which can blind us to the gravity of an action; our fallen nature inclines more readily, as we know, to sin than to goodness which often involves self-denial. It is, sometimes, frighteningly easy to justify what we know in our heart to be wrong.
Saint Paul makes it very clear that God insists on the Commandments and our obedience to them out of Love. That is not, of course, what is so often portrayed by the media as love, which is often directly opposed to this Virtue! Promoting Love as God intends can make one very unpopular indeed, even among one's fellow Christians!
Through the Alleluia verse we beg that Truth will underpin all that we do in life.
Jesus, in the Gospel, echoes Ezekiel's call for the correction of sinfulness among those around us. He also confirms that, in binding us to certain ways of conduct or, indeed in absolving us of any, the Pope and Bishops act with His Authority.
Lord, grant us courage!
Today, in the Entrance Antiphon, we call on our Merciful God Who, in His Goodness and great Love, is ever ready to forgive our sins, should we repent and put us, spiritually, ‘back on our feet’. The Responsorial Psalm speaks first of our great longing for God’s Grace which, alone, can give Life to our souls. A soul fallen from Grace may be compared to drought-stricken land, lifeless without water but in which plants will spring into growth when rain falls and irrigates it. Through the words of the psalm we proclaim our belief that it is only by constantly drawing on the Strength that comes from God, that only by looking to Him, whose ‘…love is better than life’, will we attain the Eternal Life He has created us to live! We recognise that true happiness lies in ever drawing on the Source of Life and Help, staying close to our Father who, unlike the fallible promoters of solely material success, will never let go of us and can and will actually give all He promises!
In the First Reading we are reminded that fidelity to God’s Call does not promise Heaven on Earth as we hear the Prophet, Jonah’s lament over the humiliation he is facing from those who resist his preaching of the Truth. If one really sets one’s sights on living God’s Way, then one may well experience a ‘bumpy ride’ or even, as are many of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ in various parts of the world, be called to lay down one’s life. In the Second Reading Saint Paul underlines the Sacrificial aspect of being ‘in the world but not of it’; our priority must, of necessity, be that of loving and pleasing God, however ‘uncool’ such a way of life may appear to those for whom the world and material success are the be all and end all of life! Through our example of fidelity to God may we draw lost souls back on track!
In the Alleluia verse we call for help to be able see beyond the here and now, with its ups and downs, to the true goal of Eternal Life, often obscured by materialism.
Finally, in the Gospel we see, from the words of Our Lord, that there is no cosy alternative to self-denial in this life. As Jesus, very bluntly, reminds a well-meaning Peter, who had expressed horror at the thought of His coming Passion and Death, eternal unhappiness is the only destination of a life lived, knowingly and intentionally, apart from God. However self-sufficient our life in this world may appear, it will very definitely come to an end and we will be rewarded, “…each one according to his behaviour…”. Our eternity is, very clearly, in our hands (we have Free-Will) but, if we are to be eternally happy with God, we are personally charged with working at it! We are crew, not passengers!
On Friday we will celebrate the Birthday of Our Blessed Lady who set us a striking example of Faith, Hope and Love in embracing God’s Way over Man’s! Sinless from conception, therefore unflawed by a fallen nature, Mary was dedicated to God as an infant by her Parents, Joachim and Anne. Her whole life, untainted by personal sin, was a preparation for her mission. As a young woman she took up the challenging assignment offered her by the Father through the Archangel Gabriel and, in her Womb, ‘the Word was made Flesh and Dwelt among us!’. Mary, our Mother, is ever watchful over us.
‘…Dark night has come down on this…world…
and the tempest-tossed Church, all her eyes are on thee….’
May we never cease to implore Mary’s protection throughout our life’s journey towards Eternal Bliss with her Divine Son!
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church