Plea for mercy

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Justice and mercy

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

"Do not withdraw your favour from us, for the sake of Abraham, your friend, of Isaac your servant, and of Israel your holy one." (Daniel 3:35)

Lent is a time when we acknowledge the reality of our own sinfulness. We recall the teaching of the first letter of John, which bluntly declares that "if we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth". To help us face up to this truth and its consequences for our daily lives, we hear today a prayer from the prophet Daniel and a parable of Jesus from Matthew's Gospel.

In Daniel's story, Azariah is one of three men thrown into a fire. "In the heart of the fire" he makes a plea to God for forgiveness. He recalls the fidelity of God to the promises God made to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He laments how his people lacked leadership and how it was impossible for them to offer the animal sacrifices common in the religions of his time. They could do no more than to offer hearts with a firm trust in God as they sought God's face.

The Gospel describes a king who imitated God in offering his servant remission of an enormous debt. This king tempered justice with mercy. Sadly, the servant refused to imitate his master's exercise of justice with mercy in dealing with someone whose debt was trivial in comparison. When we pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us", we boldly declare that we have learnt the lesson of Jesus' parable. The prayer of Daniel may help us.

Prayer
Father, we pray that we may be honest in admitting our sins and failures. May we respond with true humility of heart and, in our relations with others exercise the mercy that we hope for from you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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