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The Lenten Realization

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
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?

And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die.
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7A, 7BC-8

R. (3) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
Let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26

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.”

NAB

feb 19 (1)

These are the real words of Jesus in today’s Gospel and they are terribly hard to ignore.

But we ignore the words of Jesus so easily, don’t we? I find myself taking the words of Christ and slowly, over time, adjusting them, massaging them, flattening them, and growing used to them. So much so that they become comforting platitudes that simply make me feel good about myself. Then, I find myself turning over these thoughts more often than not: I’m basically a good person, do I really do horrible things, do I really need to fast, pray, confess my sins to a priest? Do I really need to believe what the Church says if I try to do what feels right?

But—”Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Surpasses. Jesus isn’t saying—forget about these Pharisees who only followed rules, forget about all rules, do what you think is ok, be a good person. Jesus says—surpass these men who were seen as holy in the eyes of the Jewish faith. Become more holy.

Jesus is telling us straight up today that we have to surpass this rightousness. And that is intimidating. It’s a call to radical holiness, a holiness that forces us to lay down our preferences, our comforts, our ideas, for those of Christ. To follow Christ means we do not pick and choose; it means we lay it all down.

It is so hard to admit that we don’t have all the answers, that we may be wrong. It is hard to put faith in a Church that at times we do not understand. It is difficult to acknowledge that we sin again and again. But Lent is all about this realization, and in turn the realization that Jesus came to give us the grace to become holy like Him. He wants us to admit our sins, to confess, to accept His forgiveness and grace, to live a sacramental life in His Church.

Let this Lent be about laying down our own desires, and carrying the true words of Christ in our hearts and minds.

photo credit

Christy Isinger is the mom to five lovely, loud children living in the Canadian wilds. You can find out more about her here.

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