Meditation for Friday of the 1st Week of Lent


First Reading: Ezekiel 18:21-28
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26
 
"Love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)
This is important to remember, if we expect to have mercy shown to us on our personal judgement day.  Whether we have been mostly good or mostly evil will not matter as much as whether we have been mostly merciful toward others.
 
Matthew 5:26, especially in the full context of this Gospel passage, has often been used as Biblical evidence of the existence of Purgatory.  Jesus is explaining that if we go to our deathbed ("on the way to court") without having cleared things up with those whom we have killed with words, then those words will be testimony against us when we stand before God ("the judge").  Although we may not have physically killed or even wounded the other person, we still caused a rift in the relationship with another, and if it is not repaired while we are in the flesh, then restitution must be made on the other side, and "you will not be released until you have paid the last penny."
 
The key to understanding this is that there will be a release.  We know from other verses that hell is eternal banishment from the sight of God.  However, Jesus here is talking about a place after judgement where there will be release.  This is because we may be worthy of Heaven and eternal life (i.e., we’ve brought our gift, Jesus, to the altar), but Heaven is the abode of perfect love, and an unmended relationship (i.e., "your brother has anything against you") makes us not necessarily undeserving of Heaven, but just not ready yet – we’re still dirty and need to be cleaned; the white garment given us in Baptism has a few tears in it that we need to mend.
 
This is where 1 Peter 4:8 comes in.  It helps those who recall that his brother has something against him, because his gift is fully accepted at the altar when the love of God is proven through reconciliation with those we have harmed, for "whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20)  Likewise, it also helps when one forgives those who have wronged them in the past, because that forgiving love provides that "release" by covering the sins, so not even God sees them anymore.  Forgiveness is a form of clothing the spiritually naked – their Baptismal garment has been torn, but love covers the rips and tears.  This is why it is called "patching things up."
 
Whom have we wronged that we need to make restitution to?  Who do we feel has wronged us that we can release and cover with loving forgiveness?  Meditate on it, but do it soon "while on the way to court."
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