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Humility and Reconciliation

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

by Robert Waldrop

Tuesday, March 17

Memorial of St. Patrick

Readings: Daniel 3:25, 34-43; Psalm 25; Matthew 18:21-35

From the midst of the fiery furnace, surrounded by flames yet protected by an angel of the Lord, comes a cry of repentance. Once mighty and powerful Israel has been brought into slavery, captivity, and powerlessness. In this state of physical and spiritual poverty, they begin to understand and reflect on the true nature of service to God, which is more than cultic sacrifice and religious practice, it is a humble heart and a contrite spirit. It is a fiery crucible, from which Israel emerges with renewed faith and obedience to covenant.

From Jesus comes more teaching regarding reconciliation and a parable fraught with contradiction for the modern world. Forgive? Hah, revenge is better. We wouldn't want anyone to think we are weak and can't protect ourselves. We know that in this predatory society, those who don't protect themselves are eaten alive. So it's OK to give some kind of respect to this as a pious platitude, but implement as a daily reality? "Get real" is perhaps the mildest thing people would say to you these days.

But Jesus doesn't seem to be interested in leaving us an "out", some way to escape from this dilemma. He says, "Well, the way you deal with those who sin against you is the way God is going to deal with you." The form may be "parable", but there doesn't seem to be anything very ambiguous about its conclusion.

"He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way," sings today's psalm. Humility is the key that opens the way of reconciliation, enabling our openness to forgiveness and reconciliation, the double foundation of justice and peace.

On this day the Church remembers St. Patrick. He was kidnaped and sold into slavery as a youth, as a man he returned -- not to seek revenge, but to bring the Gospel of Christ as a missionary bishop and evangelist to those who oppressed him. He is honored, not only as patron of the Irish, but also as patron of all who are pushed to the edge of their communities. In honoring the evangelical witness of St. Patrick, we remember also the many violations of justice and peace committed against the Irish over the centuries, as well as the on-going situations and circumstances in Northern Ireland.

Prayer intentions today:

+ Pray for those who have sinned against you. Pray for yourself that you will begin to move in the direction of reconciliation with them.

+ Pray for those that you have sinned against. Pray that you will understand your responsibility and will have the fortitude to admit your sin and ask for forgiveness.

+ Pray for peace in Northern Ireland, and remember in prayer all the deceased holy souls of Ireland who have been persecuted for their faith and are martyrs of justice and peace..

Praxis today:

+ Learn more about an area of social reconciliation that impacts you (e.g. race relations, economic discrimination, etc.)

+ Read the newspaper and look for justice and peace issues.

+ Go to a St. Patrick's Day celebration.

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