Monday (March 9)
Be merciful as your Father is merciful
Gospel Reading: Luke 6:36-38
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Old Testament Reading: Daniel 9:4-10
4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances; 6 we have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord belongs righteousness, but to us, confusion of face, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those that are near and those that are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery which they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him, 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
Do you know and experience the mercy God has for you through the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for you and for your sins upon the cross? The Lord Jesus took our sins upon himself and nailed them to the cross so that we could receive pardon rather than condemnation, freedom rather than slavery to sin, and healing for the wounds caused by sin, injustice, and evil.
God’s mercy knows no limits.
God the Father never tires of showing his steadfast love and mercy to those who seek him. Scripture tells us that his mercies never cease. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (The Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:22-23). What can hold us back from receiving God’s mercy and pardon? Anger, resentment, an unwillingness to forgive or to ask for a pardon can hold us back from the healing power and merciful love that has the power to wash away guilt and condemnation, fear and anger, pride and resentment. The Lord Jesus offers us freedom to walk in his way of love and forgiveness, mercy and goodness.
Imitate God the Father’s mercy
We are called to be merciful towards one another just as our heavenly Father has been merciful towards each one of us. Do you quickly forgive those who wrong you or cause you grief or pain, or do you allow ill-will and resentment to grow in your heart? Do you pray for those who have lost sight of God’s mercy, pardon, truth, and justice?
In the Old Testament, we see the example of Daniel, a man of great faith in God’s mercy and just ways, who prayed daily, not only for himself, but for his own people, and for his persecutors as well. Daniel was ‘shamefaced’ before God because he recognized that his own people who had been called and chosen by God as the people of Israel, were now suffering in exile due to their sins and unfaithfulness to the covenant God had made with them (see Daniel 9:4-10). Daniel did not sit in judgment over the failings and sins of his own people, instead, he pleaded with God for compassion, pardon, and restoration. Our shame will turn to joy and hope if we confess our sins and ask for God’s healing love and mercy.
Do not judge
Why does Jesus tell his followers to “not judge lest they be judged”? Jesus knew the human heart all too well. We judge too quickly or unfairly with mixed motives, impure hearts, and prejudiced minds. The heart must be cleansed first in order to discern the right judgment with grace and mercy rather than with ill will and vengeance.
Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD), a wise early Christian teacher and writer, comments on Jesus’ exhortation to not condemn:
Do not judge, that is, unjustly, so that you may not be judged, with regard to injustice. With the judgment that you judge shall you be judged. This is like the phrase “Forgive, and it will be forgiven you.” For once someone has judged in accordance with justice, he should forgive in accordance with grace, so that when he himself is judged in accordance with justice, he may be worthy of forgiveness through grace. Alternatively, it was on account of the judges, those who seek vengeance for themselves, that he said, “Do not condemn.” That is, do not seek vengeance for yourselves. Or, do not judge from appearances and opinion and then condemn, but admonish and advise.
Grace and mercy
What makes true disciples of Jesus Christ different from those who do not know the Lord Jesus and what makes Christianity distinct from any other religion? It is grace – treating others not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated – with forbearance, mercy, and loving-kindness. God shows his goodness to the unjust as well as to the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God always seeks what is best for each one of us and he teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and unkind towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.
Overcome evil with mercy and goodness
How can we possibly love those who cause us grief, harm, or ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who trust in his love and who seek his wisdom and help. The Lord is ready to work in and through us by his Holy Spirit, both to purify our minds and hearts and to help us do what is right, good, and loving in all circumstances. Paul the Apostle reminds us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5) God’s love conquers all, even our hurts, injuries, fears, and prejudices. Only the cross of Jesus Christ and his victory over sin can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment, and give us the courage to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Such love and grace have the power to heal, restore, and transform us into the image of Christ. Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?
“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom, pardon, and joy. Transform my heart with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, or make me bitter towards anyone.”
8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our forefathers; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let the avenging of the out-poured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power preserve those doomed to die!
13 Then, we, your people, the flock of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
A Daily Quote for Lent: The Practice of Mercy, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
“The practice of mercy is twofold: when vengeance is sacrificed and when compassion is shown. The Lord included both of these in his brief sentence: ‘Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given to you.’ This work has the effect of purifying the heart, so that, even under the limitations of this life, we are enabled with a pure mind to see the immutable reality of God. There is something holding us back, which has to be loosed so that our sight may break through to the light. In connection with this, the Lord said, ‘Give alms, and behold, all things are clean to you.’ Therefore the next and sixth step is that cleansing of the heart.”