“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”
Even if an image of a good and gracious God takes root in our hearts, we may find ourselves asking, “How should I pray?” or even, “If God is supposedly all-knowing, why bother praying in the first place?” A good parent delights in hearing their child speak and ask, even if they know what will be said. She can’t quite formulate sentences yet, but if my daughter Michelle ever says, “I love you, Daddy,” I hope I would have the good sense never to cut her off halfway through. It is in practicing to speak to one who will listen freely and respond lovingly that we learn to speak well. Today’s reading reinforces that it is in praying, however haltingly or incompletely, through God’s grace already prompting us to pray, that we learn to pray well, and thereby attune our hearts and minds to God responding to us.
Now, we know that a good parent will not always give their child exactly what they ask for or want. So too it is with God. We may be frustrated that a prayer of ours doesn’t get answered in the way we would hope. Yet, one of the chief convictions of our faith is that God can bring good out of even the most crushing sorrow or frustration. Prayer expands our hearts to perceive this reality more clearly. Likewise, parenting has deepened my conviction that God takes great delight in seeing His children grow, in conversing with them, and in seeking out every opportunity to bring joy to them.
Gospel: Matthew 5:20-25
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. 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.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Reflection: Dina Picha, Campus Dining
This passage begins with Jesus teaching us to follow the law to not commit murder. This commandment seems pretty easy to follow, doesn’t it? But in the next several verses, Jesus tells us that we should also not hold onto any anger we have with our brother and that if we do not resolve it, we have committed a sin. Now I am confused…
After all, we are human. It is in our nature to have feelings of anger toward another person when they have wronged us, right? How is this committing a sin? I re-read the passage a few more times and it still did not make sense to me. I waited a few days before reading it again all the while appreciating the fact that Amy McKenna has given me ample time to complete this exercise. :) After further reflection, I decided to concentrate on the word anger. What happens when we hold on to our anger for a long period of time? We tend to let it build up to the point that we might name call, insult, or have feelings of hurting the person just as they have hurt us. These negative thoughts and acts are what lead us to sin. Now it makes sense to me!
If we do not resolve our grudges, we are not only separating ourselves from one another, we are separating ourselves from God too. Finally, would not the world be a much better place if we all resolved our differences right away?
I have learned from Matthew’s scripture a deeper meaning to this commandment that I have since added this to my daily prayers.
Dear God, please help me to remember that whenever I am angry with another, I will find the courage to make every attempt to reconcile with them so that I can become closer to You. Amen.
February 27, 2021 - Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Reflection: Bob Apanasewicz, Fathers’ Club President
‘Pray for those that persecute you’; one of the most striking of Christ’s teachings. While reflecting on particular line in the Gospel passage an appropriate personal experience occurred to me.
Where I formerly worked, my coworkers and I would weekly play wallyball (volleyball on a racquetball court). After an hour of play we would retire to the lounge for a libation or two. Although most of the players were coworkers, many of them worked in another department. One evening the topic of conversation turned to their new supervisor who had just started that day. The general consensus was that he was a jerk. As I recall, this was based on one singular incident. The new supervisor called everyone into his office, introduced himself and welcomed “them” to the department. Because most of my coworkers were longtime employees, they took it as an insult that Mr. Rookie was welcoming them to their own workplace rather than viewing it as a new employee stumbling over his introduction to break the ice with his staff.
The back story was that the current assistant supervisor, who had been acting in the supervisor capacity, was someone that they liked, had performed the job in an acting capacity for nearly two years, had interviewed for the job and did not get it. I concluded that my coworkers were taking out their angst on the new guy. I thought it a little unfair (am I wrong?) to pass judgement on his first day and on one incident. So, I thought it appropriate to offer some hope and encouragement. I may have said, something like ‘Well, it’s only his first day. Give him a chance’.
All of a sudden, I was labeled as this guy’s defender. Week after week, story after story, proof of this guy’s jerkiness came out always prefaced or followed by something like ‘Careful you’re talking about Bob’s friend’ or ‘Oop, I didn’t mean to insult your buddy’. Ok, I thought, I’d take up the challenge. In good fun, each week I presented the defense for the embattled supervisor. It could even get a little ridiculous:
Coworkers: (Insert typical complaint)
Me: It’s not like he ran you over in the parking lot.
Coworkers: No, he tried that yesterday.
Me: Could have been an accident.
Coworkers: Five times?
Finally, I asked them if he have any good qualities. Well, they all agreed that he was grateful and very good at expressing his gratitude for things performed large and small. Ah, a breakthrough! . . . and also proof of the power of prayer.
In essence isn’t that what we were doing each week, a group prayer. They would present their grievance and I would oppose it, even to the point of being ludicrous. It took the edge off my coworkers’ complaints and offered them another view. Maybe that’s how we need to pray for those who persecute us. State the complaint and offer an explanation and the process itself will take the edge off or maybe heal the wound. My conclusion is that praying for those that persecute you helps you as much, if not more than your persecutor.