Jesus calls each of us to consider our personal (Christian) disposition with His words in today’s Gospel. He reminds us to be merciful and not to judge. He reminds us to forgive and seek forgiveness when we’ve wronged others. He reminds us to give generously.
How many times have we been merciless in our judgment of someone who didn’t share our belief in God and was critical of God or religion? Or maybe because someone’s moral or ethical standards weren’t the same as ours, did something which we might consider unacceptable or unreasonable? How many times have you said to someone else or even just to yourself, “I just can’t forgive that person”? I ask the question of myself as well because as I do a prayerful inventory of those I have been merciless with, judgmental of, unforgiving towards – I can think of a few. In fact, I can think of many years of hanging on to stuff and carrying it in my heart which made for me, barriers in relationship and barriers to growth in my spiritual life and relationship with God. Thank goodness I’ve had someone in my life to begin to point out some of these things to me, which has led me to continue to be watchful of where I judge, where I lack mercy and compassion, where I hang on to things and don’t forgive, where I am much less charitable and generous than I should be. And then, I make the regular practice of confession and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation – which is one of God’s many ways of extending these things to me. God leads the way on giving mercy to us and forgiving us, and if we have a proper understanding of the Sacrament, we know we are not judged in the confessional.
If we have let regular confession go, Lent is a wonderful time to renew our commitment. Many of my reflections during Lent tie into this beautiful Sacrament. I have experienced some of the most grace-filled moments as both a penitent and a confessor there. I truly believe there are many conversions pouring forth from the confessional. Pope Francis speaks often and well of his own conversion, vocation and the strength of his priestly ministry from the confessional. There are many other stories.
Today’s Gospel calls us to act mercifully, non-judgmentally, to forgive and seek forgiveness and to be generous in heart and spirit. It’s upon us to act in this way, but allow yourself first to be given these generous gifts from God – He desires it, and it’s as close as your local parish church. Friends, we all need to work harder at being the kind of people Jesus calls us to be today: the world needs us, our brothers and sisters need it and when we come together on this one, we can really get on with the work of making this world a much better place for those out there who don’t yet know our Lord and Saviour.