Dn 9:4-10; Ps 79:8,9,11,13; Lk 6:36-38: We are our own worst enemy. We remember our iniquities and sometimes even find such memories titillating. At such moments we can take refuge in the prayer of today’s responsorial psalm, “LORD, may your compassion quickly come!” Without the LORD and his constant mercy and faithful compassion, we do not have a chance to grow in virtue and uproot vice in the garden of our soul. All through our lives, we have known that the LORD God is our savior. By his glory and for the sake of his name, he will deliver us from our vice and pardon our sins. The Lord, Our Savior, hears those in prison, justly or unjustly. Indeed, the sighs of those doomed to death are heard and responded to by the LORD who liberates and renews them. We have seen the LORD’s power to save all who turn to him and recognize that they are the sheep of his pasture. Such a humble admission is startling and beautiful. Indeed, with all who are set free in his love, we declare God’s praise through all generations. The beauty and truth of the first reading prays through our own rebellion and repentance. Indeed, we are shamefaced even to this day. Saint Luke reminds us that the mercy of God abounds for those who are merciful. With such good news, we can hope for salvation, overflowing mercy.
The ugliness of sin is overshadowed by the beauty of repentance in today’s reading from the book of Deuteronomy. Few people in our contemporary society view sin as ugly. Most would see it as a high adventure or at most glorious weakness. Indeed, the repentant sinner in today’s first reading shouts the truth seldom whispered today. Our rebellion and departure from the life-giving commands of the LORD God are at the root of all misery in our lives and in our world. Again and again, the prophets of the LORD had come to our aid and summoned us to a reality check. We have wandered far from the ways of holiness and life. We have chosen to live on the fringe of reality and love. Our hearts have been ravaged by rejection and rebellion. We have rejected Our First Love; we have rebelled against the One Who Made Us. Like all our leaders from ages past we have been treacherous, and we are shamefaced. Yet, the LORD has not ceased to send us his servants the prophets. In the last days, the LORD has even sent us his son, his only begotten son from all eternity born of the Virgin Mother. In his human nature, this faithful and precious son has resisted temptation and refused to sin. With him in the desert, we too have learned how to struggle with the deceiver who uses Scripture to make the lie attractive and seem like the truth. Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we live no longer for ourselves but for Him. Who out of love came to bring us in the fire of his love to dwell at the right hand of the Father forever. Such is the glory of our destiny in Christ. Such is the beauty of our lives of repentance. Such is the adventure of those who make all of life a Lent.
Last week we heard in the Gospel of Matthew the Lord Jesus commanding us to be perfect and our heavenly Father is perfect. Today, we hear in the Gospel of Luke that we are to, “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Certainly one is not easier than the other. Perfection and mercy are quite beyond our reach. Indeed, in Christ, the perfection of love and mercy reach out to us and embrace us for the sake of the Name. We are created with a capacity to hear and respond to the Word of the Lord, to the Word made Flesh, Christ our God. As his disciples of old so too us, we are called to stop judging so that we will not be judged. Called to stop condemning so that we will not be condemned. Called to forgive so that we will be forgiven. Called to give so that gifts will be given to us. The greatest gift that the LORD gives it the gift of himself; we call it grace. This divine self-donation is given in good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, poured into our laps. In just this measure are we perfected in mercy and merciful in perfection. Indeed, we supply the needs of others just as the LORD our God supplies our needs, and only because he gives us himself without restraint and with boundless generosity. Indeed, only this mystery revealed in Christ makes life worth living even when it is the cross of exile and the pain of rejection.