Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Let us pray
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God,
who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging out wretchedness,
may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen
Isaiah 58:9-14 ; Psalm 86 ; Luke 5:27-32
|Call of St Matthew (Levi) by Caravaggio|
Jesus’ call of Levi scandalised the Pharisees. He was considered a great sinner because he was a tax collector. Jesus said that the Pharisees here were those who trusted in themselves and despised others. By trusting in themselves they had become blind to their own sin and therefore of their need for salvation.
We too can pass over our sin. If we do not regularly examine ourselves then there is a danger we can become blind like the Pharisees and end up trusting not in God but ourselves.
Christ came not to call those who trust in themselves (‘the righteous’) but those who know their need for forgiveness (‘sinners’).
Regular examination of our conscience keeps us in touch with our need for God’s mercy and our need for Christ’s salvation.
Isaiah, along with many prophets of the Old Testament, spoke against and condemned injustice, fraud, and exploitation. This was particularly when the victims of injustice were the poor and vulnerable. In our reading from Isaiah today, the prophet calls his hearers to pour themselves out for the hungry and to help the afflicted.
Pertinent to Lent are the verses that precede today’s reading. “Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” The practice of Almsgiving in Lent is about developing the virtue of justice in our lives (see below). For there can be no charity without the foundation of justice. The parable of the Last Judgement reminds us that what we do for the least of Christ’s brethren we do for Him. He identifies Himself with the poor and downtrodden.
Traditionally the Church has identified seven Corporal works of Mercy and seven Spiritual works of Mercy:
Corporal works of mercy:
1. Feeding the hungry;
2. Giving drink to the thirsty;
3. Sheltering the homeless;
4. Clothing the naked;
5. Visiting the sick;
6. Visiting the imprisoned;
7. Burying the dead.
Spiritual works of mercy:
1. Admonishing the sinner;
2. Instructing the ignorant;
3. Bearing wrongs patiently;
4. Counselling the doubtful;
5. Forgiving injuries;
6. Comforting the sorrowful;
7. Praying for the living and the dead.
Whenever we wonder what we need to be doing for the Lord, we can do far worse than choose one of these works of mercy to perform.
The Cardinal Virtue of Justice
This is the virtue by which we regulate our relations with God and others. It is about avoiding two opposites the one being selfishness, when we give ourselves too much regard to the detriment of others, and the other being a wrong sort of selflessness which is a loss of identity and integrity (not regarding oneself as having any value). The virtue of justice is the will to give God and our neighbour what is their due. This virtue when applied to God is known as the virtue of religion.