Friday of the First Week of Lent
Friday, February 23, 2024
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 Mass
Ezekiel 18:21-28; Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8; Matthew 5:20-26

Audio Recording

 

“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Today’s Gospel reading emphasizes the need for forgiveness in the life of the Christian. Typically when we think about forgiveness we think about those who have offended us in some way, those who WE need to forgive. We think about the need not to hold a grudge against someone who has done something to us we didn’t like or who has hurt us in some way.

We know that we need to let go of past hurts and reconcile with those who have offended us in some way, no matter how grave that offense may have been. Forgiveness of others is clearly key if we want to advance in the spiritual life and deepen our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks to the other side of the coin of forgiveness. He speaks not so much about those we need to forgive, but of those from whom we need to seek forgiveness. In many ways this is much harder work, as it requires looking honestly at ourselves to see who we have offended by our actions and/or our inactions. It requires humility, recognizing that WE are often the reason that there is a rift between us and the other. That WE have acted sinfully and need to seek the forgiveness of the one we have offended.

Some of you may be familiar with the 12-step program that is taught by Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction recovery programs. Step 8 of the program is for the person in recovery to make a list of all the persons he has harmed and become willing to make amends to them.

This step of the program follows Steps 5, 6 and 7, which focus on understanding the wrongs we have done, being willing to allow God to heal us of these character defects, and then humbly handing our broken selves over to God and asking him to heal us.

These four steps of the AA 12-step program apply to all of us. We can only see our own faults through deep reflection on how we may be the one who has hurt others. Rather than blaming others for the ways they have sinned against us, we must be honest with ourselves and with God so that he can reveal our faults to us. After we see these faults of ours more clearly, we must be willing to have Him remove them from us and, in all humility, ask Him to heal us. Only then can we see ourselves as God sees us and take action to ask those we have hurt to forgive us.

Often we pray for sinners, for those in the world who are lost and are far from God. But do we include ourselves among those we pray for? Do we recognize that we, too, are sinners and are in need of forgiveness and healing? Or do we adopt the attitude of the Pharisee in Luke’s gospel who spoke this prayer to himself: “…’O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.”

Dear friends, today and during this season of Lent let’s do the hard work of being honest with ourselves to recognize those times we have sinned against others, either in our thoughts or in our deeds, and ask God to heal us. Lent is the perfect time for us to honestly examine ourselves and recall that which our brother may have against us. It is the perfect time for us to admit our wrongs and reconcile with our brother. It’s hard work, but it is essential if we are to live the life Christ has called us to live.

God bless you.