FRIDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Ez 18:21-28 Ezekiel speaks of God’s forgiveness to sinners who repent and warns the virtuous people who depart from the path of virtue to do evil.
Gospel: Mt 5:20-26 Jesus tells us that worship of God can be ruined by unwillingness to be reconciled with anyone who has anything against us.
GIVE UP SIN!
In the first reading, the Lord God, through his prophet, Ezekiel, challenges two old beliefs common among his people: that children inherit the guilt of their ancestors and are punished for it, and that God is more strict than merciful. This passage is a major breakthrough in the theology of the Old Testament as regards the relations between sin and its consequent punishment, and one’s progeny. Till then, the Jews believed that children inherited the guilt of their ancestors and were punished for it. Now for the first time, God declares his option for personal responsibility. Each one is accountable for one’s life. We cannot hold our parents or the society for the evil we do or the good we fail to do. So also, we cannot shift the blame for our faults to circumstances or character or the moon/stars! In all humility we should recognize that the fault is always ours.
Coming to the second misconception, the prophet clearly proclaims that God’s mercy overrules strict justice, and he doesn’t hold our past against us. There are some secular thinkers who accuse religion of creating unnecessary guilt. But today’s passage completely shatters that myth. Even the greatest sinner, if he repents, can joyfully trust in God and be confident of his mercy. It can happen even at the last moment of one’s life. That’s why the Church is against the death penalty, which is reiterated by Pope Francis in his recent Encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti (nos. 263-270). And Jesus himself confirms what the prophet says: “There is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner” (Lk 15:10).
In the Gospel we see how Jesus raises the standard required of his disciples: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Lent isn’t just about giving up some food or drink or entertainment; it’s about giving up sin. It’s about giving up anything that keeps us away from God and from sanctity
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 130: 1-8 If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who could stand?
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