Friday of the First Week of Lent
(Click here for readings)
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…”
Last Friday a group of high school kids ran up to me, cornered me and stole my ear from me to complain about how unfair Lent was this year. “Wait a minute! Slow down.” I said. “I have no clue what you’re talking about? What’s going on?” They reminded me of how Spring Break falls inside of Lent. “This is so unfair!”, they said.
“Oh, that’s right.” I picked up my stuff and left with a smile on my face.
Hey God! Your ways are not fair. Thus says the Lord God: “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?” (Ezek 18:25).
I’ve been thinking about this bible passage a lot. It kills me to admit it, but I believe the Lord has a point.
Say and do. Come on…admit it. It’s easier to say sweet things than to do sweet things. It’s easier to say the right things than to do the right things. I know. I say the right things a lot more often than I do them! Why can’t life be like that? Why do we demand people to do what they say? Ugh! This is so terrible. Why can’t we just place a higher value on what people say instead of what they do? Wouldn’t that be heaven?
No. It would be hell…and we know it.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
This is so unfair! (I’m being sarcastic!)
And yet, I must admit the Lord did nothing less than what He said. He said He would lay down His life for us and He did. He said if you wanted to be the greatest than you better start serving others. He said it and He did it Himself. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies…” Well, He said it and did it.
If the Lord is unfair, then He is first and foremost unfair with Himself, which is not too farfetched if you consider how He allowed Himself to be treated.
Sacrifice and love. Oh, I hate this one! This one is by far the worst for me. Why can’t love just be warm and fuzzy? Why does it have to involve blood? Why can’t it just feel good all over?
This is so unfair!
But again, I must admit the truth, and the truth is as clear as can be. There’s no doubt about it. The people who love me the most are the people who have sacrificed the most for me. This is the truth. And for the vast majority of us, our very first experience of pure love came via our parents: by the way they constantly sacrificed themselves for us.
Sacrifice and love go hand-in-hand like Christ and the Cross go nail through hand.
Forgiven means forgiving. This one is brutal. It really is. It’s also kind of sneaky. Can you believe it? If you wish to be forgiven, then you must forgive!!!
“I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…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.”
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6:12).
I can’t tell you how many times I prayed (I should say “I said”) the “Our Father” and I never picked up on this agreement. It is so sneaky of Him. I’m actually giving God permission to forgive me in the same way I forgive others! So if I don’t forgive others, then I am telling Him not to forgive me. This is so unfair! It’s downright mean!
But then again, I should know better. I should know the Lord did it Himself, especially when He said to his torturers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).
“Forgive us our trespasses…” has never been written in small print. It is our pride and joy.
The Golden Rule vs. The New Commandment. What is the Golden Rule? “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk 6:31). This is fair. I like this one. I can get along with this.
What is the New Commandment? “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). This is not fair. This is totally unfair! It’s so unbalanced! And the timing could not have been worse: right before Jesus is arrested, beaten, scourged and crucified!
Come on! Give me a break!
But once again, as unfair as it may seem, I have to admit this New Commandment brings me to tears of joy. It’s a challenge worth taking. It may fit inside my brain like a circle fits into a square, but it fills every inch of my aching heart with faith, hope and love.
The Lord’s Commandment seals the deal. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35). (0)
Friday of the First Week of Lent