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Spiritual Give and Take

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You cannot give away what you don’t have.

The 1st of March brings with it an honest plea for God’s mercy from the prophet Daniel (9:4-10), who clearly understands that he and his people have, to put it bluntly, screwed up. They now find themselves sifting through the wreckage that they have heaped upon themselves by virtue of their wayward choices.

“We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws,” proclaims Daniel. “We have not obeyed your servants the prophets,who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.”

Clearly they covered all the bases.

But like so many of our recent readings, chosen of course for this great Lenten season of repentance, redemption and transformation, Daniel seeks forgiveness on the heels of his contrition-laden proclamation. He calls upon the Lord’s compassion with candor and confidence, knowing that redemption can be his. We too can go to our Lord with the same unwavering confidence.

This Reading gives way perfectly to today’s Gospel (Luke 6:36-38), wherein Jesus urges his disciples to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” How can we go to God seeking forgiveness, as Daniel did on behalf of his people, unless we too are willing to forgive those who trespass against us?

It has been said many times that you cannot give away what you don’t have. So many times has this been said as a matter of fact that in using this quote to kick-off today’s reflection I didn’t even attribute it to anyone specific, as I would normally do. Wayne Dyer, Greg Hiebert, Valorie Burton...these are but a handful of individuals who have proclaimed and elaborated upon this very simple truth. As such, we must first seek forgiveness from the deep ocean of our Lord’s merciful heart before we too can forgive. We must shun our obsession with what others think of us before we too can stop judging and gossiping about others. Conversely yet by the same token through the cultivation of a pure heart, it becomes impossible to spread anger and vitriol because in time, it will no longer exist within you. You cannot give away what you don’t have.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged,” Jesus goes on to proclaim. “Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you." As Bishop Barron explains in his morning’s meditation, “According to the ‘physics’ of the spiritual order, the more one draws on the divine life, the more one receives that life, precisely because it is a gift and is properly infinite. God’s life is had, as it were, on the fly: when you receive it as a gift, you must give it away, since it only exists in gift form, and then you will find more of it flooding into your heart.”

Bishop Barron’s analogy reminds me of the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit itself. This steady and unrelenting love that constantly ping-pongs back and forth between God the Father and His Son, which is in turn lavished upon we his children. Its made manifest in the form of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit; wisdom, peace, patience, fortitude, self-control, and the list goes on and on.

“The measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” These are the parting words in today’s Gospel (6:38), and they warrant some genuine soul searching. Would we want to be judged by Jesus, with our eternal fate hanging in the balance no less, in the same way that we judge that annoying co-worker?

Pertaining to this matter, I leave you with the words of Saint Jerome, who once said “Someone who shows no clemency, who is not clothed with the bowels of mercy and tears,no matter what sort of student he is in spirituality, such a one does not fulfill the law of Christ.”

Comments

Nick Rao on March 03, 2021:

We receive more love from Him than what we are capable of living God. Even the Saints agree that our love is an inadequate measure of His, as Saint Faustina in her diary, constantly reminds us

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