Faith Daily | 1 March 2023
PRAYER of the DAY - APBA p482
O Lord, who for our sake fasted forty days and forty nights:
give us grace to use such abstinence,
that, our flesh being subdued to the spirit,
we may ever obey your godly will
in righteousness and true holiness;
to your honour and glory,
who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
GOSPEL for the Day: Matthew 5: 20-26
20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister* has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Virginia Hasker
This passage sets out clearly Jesus attitude to the issue of conflict between ‘brothers and sisters’ who could be siblings or companions in a community. The passage from Matthew 15: 17-20 seems to me to link up with the passage for today. It is out of the heart that conflict arises, and it is the festering of anger, jealousy, desire, greed, or resentment that leads to destructive acts.
- 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Relationships are difficult to establish and manage, none more so than within siblings in a family, but also within a community. Jesus understanding of human nature and the short-comings of people leads him to focus on what can happen when relationships break down and anger becomes manifest into actions, whether physical or psychological.
In his wonderful book ‘- The Book of Forgiving’, Desmond Tutu sets out the benefits and the destructive effects of forgiving or not forgiving. As the architect of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after the fall of the Apartheid Government he saw the potential for the healing power of forgiveness in communities and he sets out a Fourfold Path for forgiveness –
‘To walk the path of forgiveness is to recognise that your crimes harm you as they harm me. To walk the path of forgiveness is to recognise that my dignity is bound up in your dignity, and every wrongdoing hurts us all.’ (p8)
Jesus urges in verse 25 that matters of conflict between people be settled before they can fester and lead to chasms and divisions which tear relationships apart. Very practical advice, and it’s these type of issues that we are called to reflect on during Lent, in prayer and meditation and with God’s help to resolve differences with humility.
God forgives unconditionally
So can we
The thief on the cross still dies on his cross
But forgiveness will set his spirit free
And what of you and me standing on the ground with our piles of hurts mounting so high
Will we die a thousand deaths before we die?
Yearning for revenge, will we die of that thirst?
Will the rage that fills us be the stake on which we burn?
Will we stumble over every resistance placed in our way?
And stay stuck in the misery of it all?
Or will we take the chance that we might break free by following
This path where it leads
Past the whys and lies about how it cannot be,
Here is our chance
Take this chance
(The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu p39)
God give us strength. Strength to hold on, and strength to let go. Amen
(‘A Common Prayer’ by Michael Leunig)