Friday in the First Week of Lent

Early in Lent, a time of conversion, the Church gives us a series of gospels that emphasize putting principles before personalities. The gospels direct us to put Jesus’ principles, our principles, before one’s own personality. The principle is forgiveness and it is to be put before one’s own personality, not that of the offender. The principle is to apply in one of the most difficult situations a person faces in life: the suffering of an injustice.

This is important, it makes a difference, because He is teaching a community that has religion in common and He is cautioning the rank-and-file about the religious leadership. Of the five voices of conscience, the Voice of Membership is of utmost importance to a religious community. It forms their sense of what matters most, where one stands in relation to it, and how to live toward it. If the community or its leadership offends that sense of belonging, it weakens the voice and makes the community irrelevant. Jesus knows the community is the People of God. He does not want a single sheep to be lost.         

The offended one may forgive, but if the offender is unrepentant, if the offender defends his mistake, the victim remains singled out and the voice of membership remains compromised. He no longer participates in nor benefits from our principles. It is hard to “get over” what isn’t over.    

Jesus is telling us today that membership in the People of God, fraternal charity, is important; it makes a difference.