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Friday, First Week of Lent

March 18, 2011

Blessed Ember Friday!

Today we again express our gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made for us by giving Him the gift of our own sacrifice, by foregoing meat for love of Him. Today is also the second of our three vernal Ember Days, sanctifying the coming springtime with prayer and penance.

…and Blessed St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Day!

You can find his story here.

Lord, may our observance of Lent
help to renew us and prepare us
to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for Mass)

Ezekiel 18:21-28 (repentant sinners will live, but if the righteous turn to sin, they’ll die)
Psalm 130:1-8 “If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt who could endure it?”
+Matthew 5:20-26 (be reconciled to each other)

God doesn’t see the wicked the way we do.

To us, the wicked man is a powerful threat to be resisted, put down or destroyed.
To God, the wicked man poses no threat.
There is no evil that God cannot redeem,
cannot turn to glorious good (see Romans 8:28).
Rather, God sees in the wicked man the wreckage of His finest creation,
a man destined for the glory of Heaven, now writhing in the leprosy of sin.
This bruised reed God will not break,
this smoldering wick He will not quench (see Matthew 12:20).

As I live, says the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked,
but that the wicked turn from his way, and live.
-Ezekiel 33:11

The great St. John Chrysostom (347-407) puts it this way:

But if you are still grieving and bowing down,
I should like to show you the soul of the wrongdoer after his victory,
how it is become ashes.
For truly sin is that kind of thing:
while one commits it, it affords a certain pleasure;
but when it is finished, then the trifling pleasure is gone, one knows not how,
and in its place comes dejection.
And this is our feeling when we do hurt to any:
afterwards, at any rate, we condemn ourselves.
So also when we over-reach we have pleasure;
but afterwards we are stung by conscience.
Do you see in any one’s possession some poor man’s home?
Weep not for him that is spoiled, but for the spoiler:
for he has not inflicted, but sustained an evil.
For he robbed the other of things present;
but himself he cast out of the blessings which cannot be uttered.
For if he who gives not to the poor shall go away into hell;
what shall he suffer who takes the goods of the poor?
-St. John Chrysostom, “Homilies On First Corinthians”

This is the vantage-point God wants us to have when dealing with our enemies.
If we throw our weight into further harming them
–nurturing anger, using abusive language, holding them in contempt–
then no one has gained anything.
We have only made matters worse.
Instead of one bruised reed, we now have two
(or more: our enemy, ourselves and those who care about either of us),
and our enemy has been driven further away
from the sacred destiny for which God made them.

‘But,’ saith one, ‘he insulted me and robbed me of money;’
and which hath need to grieve,
he that suffered injury, or he that inflicted injury?
Plainly he that inflicted injury,
since whilst he gained money he cast himself out of the favor of God,
and lost more than he gained:
so that he is the injured party.
Surely then need is not that one pray against, but for him,
that God would be merciful to him.
-St. John Chrysostom, “Homilies On Second Corinthians”

If, we recognize sin for the spiritual disease that it is,
then we can see our enemy as God does
and have compassion on the misery of their sin!
We can be confident that we have suffered no lasting harm at their hands–
God will turn it to our benefit (unless we prevent Him).
If we unite ourselves to God’s desire for their conversion,
praying and encouraging them toward that end,
then we overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21),
both for ourselves and for our enemy (even if they don’t repent!).
We prove that we are sons of our heavenly Father,
whose sun rises on the bad and the good,
who rains on the just and the unjust (see Matthew 5:45).

This is the power of divine love.
This is the love that overcomes the world (John 16:33).

May the power of this love transform your life.

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