Friday of the First Week of Lent
(Ezekiel 18:21-28; Matthew 5:20-26)
At a male spirituality retreat many of the participants were recovering alcoholics. They had decided previously to give their lives to a “Higher Power” as Alcoholics Anonymous prefers to call God. Now the participants were deepening their commitment to that Power. Although alcoholism is as much a medical as a moral condition, AA at least does not deny that alcoholics have some responsibility for the problems in which they find themselves. They must recognize that they have hurt others by feeding their condition and take responsibility for not falling into the habit again. Today’s readings portray such people as on the road to sanctity.
Ezekiel announces that the Lord wills to save, and not condemn, sinners. God is not going to free them from responsibility of their sins but will urge them to reform. Their reward, the oracle says, will be “life.” In the gospel Jesus teaches his disciples that they must seek forgiveness from those they have offended if their sin offering is to be worthy. It is a lesson that resonates with that of the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
It is often hard to recognize our sins and even harder to seek the forgiveness of others. Yet both tasks are at the heart of Christian faith. If we are going to walk with Jesus, we must humble ourselves by recognizing our need for his reconciling company.