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A Litany for Our Life

by Feb 26, 2024Friar Reflection

What did you take away from today’s readings? Before reading on, take a moment. Click on the link and peruse the readings for today. What are the one or two notions or ideas that stand out for you? We’ll wait…

The first reading is largely a confession of sin, a lament and recounting of all that the people of God have done that led to the Babylonian Exile and the ensuing tribulation. It is a prayer by the prophet Daniel as he meditates on Jeremiah’s prophecy that seventy years would pass while Judah remained desolate and its people captive. As he ponders, he also does penance and fasts. It is a very Lenten scene.

Daniel offers a prayer that opens with a frank confession of the disobedient sinfulness of the covenant people. Then just beyond the scope of our reading, Daniel recalls God’s graciousness in leading the people out of Egypt and God’s justice in punishing Jerusalem. Then Daniel petitions God to deliver the holy city and the nation that bears God’s name. He does so in a threefold request which is akin to an Old Testament version of Kyrie eleison or “Lord, have mercy.”

The Responsorial Psalm is, in its way, also a frank confession of our sad condition in the valley of tears – we are sinners who acknowledge the justice due to the Lord and yet we hope: “Remember not against us the iniquities of the past; may your compassion quickly come to us. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.

Then in the Gospel, after all our pleading, God doesn’t not recount our sins, does not lecture us on the justice due the Lord, the litany from our loving God is this: Be merciful…stop judging…forgive. Do these things and “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing.

A litany for life: Be merciful…stop judging…forgive.

Like Daniel, people of Faith are quite good at recounting their sins. But as a priest and confessor it seems to me, like the first reading, we stop short. We fail to recall God’s graciousness and loyal love. Like the psalmist we are good at asking the Lord to not remember our sins and to be compassionate. And yet, even when forgiven, we are a people who not only recall our failures, but dwell on them, failing to let the compassion of the Lord infuse our souls in a way that we are able to be compassionate with ourselves.

Be merciful…stop judging…forgive. We are better at doing that for others than ourselves as though it is a litany for every life except our own.

Be merciful…stop judging…forgive. These are Jesus’ words, akin to a divine version of Kyrie eleison. It is the Lord’s prayer for us about ourselves.

Image credit: “Kyrie Eleison” by Soichi Watanabe, Japan; CC-BY-NC