My Transgressions

When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive your transgressions. (Mark 11:25)

The Lord Jesus exhorts us to pray with boundless confidence. He wants us to believe that our heavenly Father loves us so much that He will give us whatever we ask for. Boundless faith—the faith of a true friend and intimate of God—this opens the door of prayer.

Christ is talking to zealous believers here—prayer warriors, confirmed disciples.

At the end of this discourse, He slips in a wonderful little nugget: ‘You lovely, holy saints-in-the-making, beloved intimates of Mine, My chosen ones: remember that you stand guilty of transgressions against God.

‘Just like everybody. Just like the tax collector hunched over in the back of the Temple I just cleansed.’

With this little, last-minute reminder, the Lord shows us the way into His Heart. We enter His Heart when we acknowledge our solidarity with the sinful mass of human flesh, of which we form our part.

It is not for me to wonder if I am a sinner or not. I know that I am one. I pray, Lord, that You might enlighten my mind, so that I can know my sinful self better. I know that You forgive.

We Catholics don’t believe in magic. But one thing that works like magic is this:

I resent something someone else has done. I can’t bring myself to forgive.

I turn my mind from the business altogether. Instead, I say to the Lord: ‘Lord, I believe with all my heart that I have done wrongs which put You on the cross, even though I don’t even know the half of them. You suffered for me, and I praise You and bless You, and I admit that if I spent every minute of every day of my life thanking You for what You did to save me from the hellfire I deserve—it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough.’

I say this, and presto! Not as angry at the other guy as I was.

Barren Self-Reliance, Glad Grace-Reliance

Today, God addresses us as follows:

Raise a glad cry, you barren one! (Isaiah 54:1)

Barren one?

At the Last Supper, Peter audaciously declared to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for you.”

He proposed to do this by his own courage, by his own manly vigor. Christ knew better. He knew the measure of Peter’s virility. He refused to accept Peter’s declaration.

As we know, Peter proved to be barren of courage and manliness.

“We saw you with him!” “I do not know the man.” “You are one of his disciples!” “I do not know what you mean.” “You are his friend!” “I do not know him.”

Meanwhile, the crucified thief bravely bore witness to the truth. “O innocent king,” the thief begged, “forgive me my guilt and remember me in your great kingdom to come.”

Christ did accept this. “Raise a glad cry, barren one. You may be languishing on a cross, justly condemned. But you will be with me in paradise this very day.”

Christ spoke these words of consolation to Peter, too. “Tough guy, you turned out to be a barren one, too, didn’t you? …But raise a glad cry, too. You will lay down your life for Me, by the power of my grace, when I say so.”

Self-reliance leaves us bereft and lifeless. Let’s raise a glad cry for the constant help that comes from heaven.

The Really Rich King

[Click HERE to read the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.]

In the ancient Near East, monarchs and potentates employed provincial officials to manage government revenues. A free-handed king might allow one of his collection officers to borrow from the treasury. The official could use royal funds to build up a lavish household of his own and carry on like a little potentate himself.

But the royal accountants kept track of the money.

If someone in the imperial bureaucracy began to suspect that a particular official had borrowed more than he should from the king’s coffers, then a day of reckoning would come.

Our translation of the gospel parable refers to the debtor owing “a huge amount.” The Greek reads “ten thousand talents.”

The current U.S. dollar equivalent would be: $225,000,000.

In the royal throne room, the indebted official groveled pathetically before his master. Again, to translate literally from the Greek: he did the king homage by kissing the royal hands and then prostrating himself on the floor.

Now, this king possessed stunning power and largesse. The extent of his resources made this particular IOU seem small. He knew this poor little spendthrift would never be able to pay him back.

‘Come on, get up, old boy! What’s $225 million among friends? Go home, and give your wife and kids a kiss for me.’

Here’s the question: What kind of king is this? How did he manage to amass so much wherewithal that he could wave off a quarter-billion-dollar debt with an indulgent smile? Who has the power, the confidence, and the resources to act with such otherworldly magnificence?

Continue reading “The Really Rich King”

Courtroom Drama

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery.

They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

They went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She replied, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:2-11)

Let’s step into this gospel passage. Let’s get into it ourselves, like a scene on a stage. Where do we fit into the scene? Let’s find ourselves in it. The Lord Jesus, the Pharisees, the adulteress, the bystanders…where are we?

Continue reading “Courtroom Drama”

Seeing Eye

learSelf-knowledge eludes us.

In “King Lear,” Regan remarked about her father:

He hath ever but slenderly known himself. (Act I, Scene 1)

Regan said this after Lear disowned Cordelia, the daughter who loved him the most, in a fit of rage.

Cordelia had refused to pay Lear lavish compliments like her sisters. “I love your majesty according to my bond; nor more nor less.”

“He hath ever but slenderly known himself.”

st basilOur eyes cannot see themselves.

In commenting on Luke 6:41, Saint Basil pointed this out.

In truth, self-knowledge seems the most important of all.

For the eye, looking at outward things, fails to exercise the sight upon itself.

Our understanding also, though very quick in apprehending the the sin of another, is slow to perceive its own defects.

Accusing oneself of sin is painful and difficult. It is also the most liberating thing we can do.

Once we have accused ourselves of sin, we can cry out to God for mercy. He will forgive.