Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 6:7-15)
A cartoon a couple of years ago showed two drivers after a fender-bender. One says to the other, “My lawyer will contact you tomorrow.” This is the way many people think today. When offended, they first and foremost seek redress. Today’s readings teach us that getting back at others is not God’s way.
The passage from Isaiah’s is taken from the end of the second of three sections of the book. The prophet is consoling the exiled captives in Babylon. He has told them that they have suffered enough for their infidelity. He has also assured them that God does not hold grudges. Indeed, Isaiah makes clear that God takes delight in forgiving. Jesus similarly teaches of his Father’s willingness to forgive. However, he insists that God will forgive only those who are willing to forgive others. He is saying that humans have to adopt God’s ways if they are going to receive God’s mercy.
It’s tragic how wars are continually refought because peoples do not want to forgive. Many Arabs live with resentment for Jews, and many Jews live so with Arabs. The same is true of Indians and Pakistanis. In the United States African-Americans are demanding reparations while white-Americans hold on to the prejudices of their ancestors. These are not God’s ways. If people want to be truly free, they must let go of these kinds of demands. Then they need to forgive others’ their offenses to receive God’s forgiveness for their own.