February 23, 2018 – Friday in the 1st Week of Lent

Saint for the day: Polycarp (c.69 – c. 155)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ezekiel 18:21-28 – Ps 130:1 – 5-7-8 Matthew 5:20-26

“Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? Says the Lord God. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)

In these early days of Lent we are almost being bombarded with this theme of turning from evil in order to seek the good. God is not out to “get” the good person but, rather, to see him turn from whatever is blurring his vision of what God desires us to be. Today’s Responsorial Psalm – 130 – is well-known to all Dominicans because it is prayed every day before we come into the Refectory to eat our meals. We pause to remember those friars who have gone before us (reminiscent of the days when the friars were actually buried in the cloister walkway outside the dining room.) This entire Psalm echoes the theme of today’s Liturgy: reconciliation and the promise of forgiveness. God is always standing outside that door waiting to be let in with his loving gift of forgiveness. It might be helpful if you go back and read this part of Ezekiel and substitute all the “generalized” words making them personal: e.g. “If Daniel turns away from sin … none of the crimes Daniel committed shall be remembered … etc, etc, and so forth. I often do this with the Scriptures in order to be sure that I don’t just presume that God is speaking to some anonymous person out there; and the words don’t apply to me. It’s always good to remember that when you’re praying the scriptures – in personal reflection – nobody’s holding you to “universal orthodoxy” and you want to be able to receive the word in all the fullest ways possible. That generally means that this Word of God has the ability to touch you in ways that draw you closer to God and His loving forgiveness. The beautiful thing about this is that God’s forgiveness is outside of our concept of time and space. I just counted the number of friars from just this Western Dominican Province of the Holy Name who have died in the years since I entered the Order – 1959 – and there are 124 friars that I personally knew and for whom we are still praying. I certainly hope that nobody decides to do away with this tradition before I, myself, die, since I know that I will need all the prayers possible to squeeze through those pearly gates! Just think about it: God sees everything in one blink of an eye and all he asks of us is to remember these words from Psalm 130: “… with him is plenteous redemption and he will redeem Israel (and all of us) from all our iniquities.” Amen!

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