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Measure for Measure
Monday of the Second Week of Lent
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Opening Prayer: Lord God, your teaching challenges me. I admire the moral standard of righteousness that you demand of me, and at the same time I recognize that it is impossible for me if you don’t help me. With you, all things are possible. Help me, God, to be merciful.
- Be Merciful: In the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. That is, we ask God to look at how we treat others and deal with us accordingly. This is reminiscent of numerous Psalms, such as Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart…and see if there be any hurtful way in me.” But in today’s passage, Jesus instructs us in the reverse direction; we are to look on God, and let his actions determine how we deal with others. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” This is a very high bar to clear. But we can forgive because God has first forgiven us. And we can be merciful because our Father is merciful.
- The Two Go Hand in Hand: “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Forgiving others and being forgiven by them would seem to be two separate affairs. Yet the Gospel assures us they are related. Most of us easily recall the vivid parable about the servant forgiven a huge sum: “When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe’” (Matthew 18:28). We decry his behavior because he tried to separate being forgiven from forgiving others. Pope Benedict XVI in Introduction to Christianity wrote, “Who would dare to assert of himself that he did not need to be tolerated by others, indeed borne up by them? And how can someone who lives on the forbearance of others himself renounce forbearing? Is it not the only gift he can offer in return, the only comfort remaining to him, that he endures just as he, too, is endured? Holiness in the Church begins with forbearance and leads to bearing up” (p. 343).
- Overflowing: “Give and gifts will be given to you.” The words of Christ are trustworthy, and they can make us long for heaven. In heaven, Christ will give us the gift of himself. We will see him face to face, as he is. But the “good measure” of the gift of our salvation must be “worked out with fear and trembling.” There are crosses to be endured, penance to be done. These sufferings increase our desire to reach Christ. The good measure must be “packed together” and “shaken down” so that more of it can fit into our hearts. St. Ignatius of Antioch wished to be fed to the lions, if only it would enable him to see God. If we give God our best, he will give us our heart’s desire.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, your words challenge me to the utmost. I will keep my eyes on you and not fear. Give me a double portion of your amazing grace, so that I can be grace-filled toward those around me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will thank God for the Sacrament of Confession, and for all the mercy he has shown me through this sacrament.
For Further Reflection: Matthew 18:21-35.
written by Br. Erik Burckel, LC