Daily Devotion for September 9, 2009
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer of Saint Francis of AssisiLord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Gospel of Matthew 5:21-26
The Sermon on the Mount [Part 3] - Reconcile with Your Brother
You have heard that it was said to the ancients, 'Thou shalt not kill'; and whoever kills will be in danger of the judgment; but I tell you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment. Whoever insults his brother will be in danger of judgment by the council; and whoever curses him as a "fool" is in danger of hellfire.
If you offer a gift at the altar, and remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go your way; first, be reconciled with your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him in the street, lest he has you arrested, and the officer brings you before a judge, and you are put in prison. Truly I say to you, that you will not get out of prison until you have paid the last penny.
Notes on the Scripture
The 'council' is specifically the Sanhedrin, a religious body. The Hebrew of the day would have had his adversary summoned before a religious judge who, if finding the accused guilty, would have ordered him arrested, very different from today, where arrest precedes trial before a civil judge and jury. Also, modern criminal codes do not generally impose prison time for debt. Still, in the last line (verse 26), Christ's use of prison and monetary debt as a metaphor are not hard to follow. Even the smallest of our sins are to be taken seriously, because they be called for payment.
Christ is stern on the subject of insulting and combative behavior, which modern society seems to accept and even glorify. Our culture is adversarial; insulting speech and commercial dispute are a part of life. Although calling someone a "fool" may not mean quite what it once did, still, Christ clearly regards cursing someone in anger as a serious sin, with a severe punishment. (The English word 'hellfire' is also modern, the closest equivalent to 'the fire of gehenna'; this is one of the few times in which Christ refers to a fiery punishment in the afterlife.)
We might wish that Christian organizations and leaders were free of this conduct. Thankfully, at least in public, mainstream Christian leaders have become more sensitive to it in the past 500 years. As late as the 17th century, vile insults, executions, and even genocide were all-too-common occurrences among competing Christian ideologies.
Although different theologies have different teachings on penance and forgiveness of sin, all would agree that Christ would have us avoid such conduct and that committing these acts puts us in danger of judgment. If you want to follow Christ's path, think twice and then think again before insulting someone, even if he is your worst enemy. Combative behavior is not part of Christ's plan for our lives.