1st Week of Lent, Friday, Feb 26
Ezekiel 18:21-28 / Matthew 5:20-26
Jesus teaches about anger; "The angry Person is liable to judgment.
The motor of a woman 's car died just as the traffic light turned green. She tried to restart it, but with no luck. Meanwhile, an impatient man behind her began honking his horn.Again and again, she tried to start her car, but with no luck. Now the man was honking more persistently. The woman had all she could take from him. So, she got out of her car, walked back to the man, and said gently, "Sir, I'd be delighted to honk your horn for you if you'd be kind enough to start my car for me.'
It's hard to say what impresses us most in that story, the irrationality of the man or the ingenuity of the woman.
When we get angry, do we act irrationally, like the man, or calmly, like the woman? Wrongful anger never generates light, only heat.
Often, we blame the community and “the system” for the evils of society and for the sins we commit. This shrugging off of responsibility is a timeless device of escape. Christ dealt with it and so did Ezekiel before him. Ezekiel tells us: you are personally responsible for your sins and you must repent; if so, God takes you back in his love. Jesus tells us: not the law but your personal attitude and intention counts. True worship does not consist in private, self-centered religious practice but in being committed to Christ’s task of reconciliation and service of people.
A piggy-bank is the common name for
a coin container used by children. They usually are in the design of a piglet
or some other kinds of animals. The purpose is to instill in children the habit
of saving and being thrifty. In the past, a piggy-bank is usually made of
ceramic with a slot for putting in the coins. When it is full, the children
would bring it to the bank and have the money deposited into their bank account
and they would receive a new piggy-bank.
Because in the past, a piggy-bank has no other openings other than the coin-slot, so that the children cannot take out the money in it, other than breaking it, which is not likely what the children would do. At times, we may think that all the good that we do is stored up in a piggy-bank somewhere in heaven, and when we go to heaven, that spiritual piggy-bank will be a testimony of how good we have been on earth. Yet, at the same time, some may think that all the good that they have done will guarantee them the reward of heaven. Just as pride comes before the fall, they may become complacent in their faith and slip into vice and sin. That is what the 1st reading is pointing out if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practices every kind of filth, he will be severely punished. All the good that he has done will be forgotten, will not be counted at all. We shouldn't be surprised at this because the good that we do flows from our faith which is a gift from God. We can't claim any credit for the good we do. In fact it is our duty to do good because our mission is to be a sign of God's goodness to others. So if our virtue goes no deeper than just keeping the letter of the law, like not killing or murdering, and expecting to be rewarded for just that, then we will be in for a surprise.
So being upright and doing good is not for reward in heaven or saving up credit in a spiritual piggy-bank. Being upright and virtuous is our duty to God and our obligation to our fellow human beings. In the end, we can only say we are poor and humble servants of God who did our best to fulfil our duty.
· Settle Quickly: Self-righteous anger is toxic. Like any sin, it can blind us to goodness, truth, and love. Our Lord was urging his listeners to resolve their issues so that they could put anger aside. When we feel angry and unforgiving, it truly is foolish to think we can come to Mass expecting union with God. The fruit of the Spirit is peace, and we have no peace if we choose to withhold love from others. Because we’re human, we should not be surprised when we are tempted in this way, but we must lean on our Father all the more, asking for grace to replace our pride with humility, our anger with peace. St. Paul reminds us, “Do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). We are called to live humbly and to trust in the Lord.
· Judgment: Jesus tells us that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees subjected them to judgment. They determined they were righteous because they adhered to the law. Jesus calls us to surpass them by living not the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, which is love. Jesus warns that when we fall short of loving well, there are spiritual consequences, and we may face earthly consequences as well. Living the Ten Commandments is truly a road map to happiness, both temporally and spiritually.
· Gift: By divine design, we have the power to build up and the power to tear down. Jesus is showing us in this Gospel that we inhibit our capacity to love others when we hold on to self-righteousness, anger, or unforgiveness. Since we have been loved unconditionally from above, we are called to extend this love to those Jesus places on our path. The sacrament of reconciliation can empower us to do so by washing away our sin and restoring our peaceful equilibrium.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you lived in complete freedom, never allowing the injustices directed toward you to separate you from the Father. Your dignity was so firmly rooted in your Father’s love that nothing anyone said could shake you. Lord, sometimes I allow the thoughts, opinions, and actions of others to get the best of me, which produces anger and hardening of my heart. I can feel victimized and become determined to justify myself by seeking revenge or refusing to love. Lord, please soften my heart. Help me to be so firmly rooted in your love that I am not swayed by the people around me. Please Lord, help me to accept your unconditional love and then give me the willingness to extend it to those around me, especially those who are hardest to love.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a plan to go to confession (as soon as possible) and confess any grudge, lack of charity, justice, or generosity that I hold onto. I will pray for those people who have hurt me and whom I have hurt in return, and if possible I will reach out in love toward those people whom I have hurt or who have hurt me. God, please fill me with the grace to set right my wrongs.
Prayer: God of mercy and compassion, you challenge us to be responsible for the good and the evil we do and you call us to conversion. God, help us to face ourselves that we may not use flimsy excuses for covering up our wrongs. Make us honest with ourselves, and aware that we can always count on Jesus Christ to be our guide and strength on the road to you, now and for ever. Amen.