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Monday, Second Week of Lent

March 21, 2011

Blessed Monday!

We’re a little more than one-quarter of the way through our Lenten retreat.  How’s it going?

God our Father,
teach us to find new life through penance.
Keep us from sin,
and help us by Your commandment of love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.  Amen.
(Opening prayer of today’s Mass)

Readings:
Daniel 9:4-10 (Daniel confesses his people’s sin and begs forgiveness)
Psalm 79:8-13 “Lord, do not deal with us as our sins deserve”
+Luke 6:36-38 (as you give and forgive, so shall you receive and be forgiven)

Lent isn’t just about us as individuals.
It’s also about us as a Church, as a chosen people, on our way to Heaven together.

As we fast and pray,
as we eliminate from our lives those things that lead us into temptation,
and take on disciplines that strengthen the spiritual life God gave us in Baptism,
we build up the Body of Christ,
and grace flows more freely to all who need it.

That’s what Daniel was doing in our first reading.
As an exile in Babylon, he had ample evidence of what his people had coming.
Jerusalem had been leveled, the temple destroyed,
his people either slain in war or taken into captivity.

Nor was there any denying that they’d deserved it.
God had been more than patient
while they’d set up idol worship and pagan prostitution in the temple itself (2 Kings 23:4-7)
as well as all over the nation (2 Kings 23:8, 13, 15, 19, etc.),
immolated their sons and daughters by fire in honor of Moloch (2 Kings 23:10)
and generally exceeded in wickedness
the pagan nations that God had driven out before them
(see 2 Kings 20:9, Leviticus 18:24-28).

What had gone around had come around.
It wasn’t pretty.

Daniel himself was holy, having already taken on a vegetarian diet to avoid idolatry
(Daniel 1:8-16)
and done time in a lion’s den for persisting in praying three times a day (Daniel 6:4-29).
All things considered, he’d fared better than most,
winning a place of authority in the conquerors’ government (Daniel 1:19, 2: 47-495:29).
Yet he didn’t stand on his on dignity.
He didn’t have a “me & God” mentality.
He saw himself as part of a greater whole,
part of a chosen people that desperately needed God’s mercy.

That’s what he lay before God, confessing the enormity of their sin,
while he fasted in sackcloth and ashes,
accepting God’s just judgment, and begging for mercy.

We could do well to learn from him.
We too, are part of a greater whole,
part of a nation that deserves God’s judgment
and a Church, many of whose members are in desperate need of mercy.

Like Daniel, we’re in a position to do something about it.
God’s even stacked the deck in our favor!

in this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others,
well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1475

Jesus has promised that as we give, we shall receive (Luke 6:38).
What benefits one member of His Body benefits the whole Body (see I Corinthians 12:26).

What we have here is plenty of material for penance,
plenty of motivation to increase the weight of good in the world!

To counter the great weight of evil that exists in the world
and pulls the world downwards,
the Lord places another, greater weight,
that of the infinite love that enters this world…
We should not offer to a cruel God the blood of God.
But God Himself, with His love, must enter into the suffering of history,
not only to create a balance,
but also a plus of love that is stronger than the abundance of the existing evil.
This is what he Lord invites us to do.
Questions and Answers, Pope Benedict XVI (emphasis added)

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