The First Reading is a prayer from Daniel as the Southern Kingdom was in exile in Babylon. He admits the greatness of God, his faithfulness to those who keep his commands. He also admits the sins of his people, their infidelity to God and that they deserve what has fallen on them. Yet, Daniel expressed confidence in the mercy and forgiveness of God. Which brings us to the topic of forgiveness. Jesus tells us in the Gospel today: do not judge and you will not be judged: do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgive.
Do not judge. This is used by people who do not understand what this means. By telling us not to judge, those who say that already judge us. They are saying, you cannot judge me, but I can judge you. What Jesus meant here is do not judge a person. We cannot condemn them, or say anyone is going to hell. We can certainly judge the actions of a person. We judge situations and actions every day.
We judge whether we can trust a store or not. We judge a person we deal with, we judge the people we meet. If we are not to judge, then, we can just lend to anyone, or we can believe every one. This is naive and makes no sense. The judging Jesus means here is we are not to judge the intent of the person. But it is prudent to use judgment for our protection.
We often say Forgive and forget. That is also not right. Forgiveness is not forgetting an offense. Daniel showed us that. Judah was exiled because God remembered their offenses against him. But Daniel said God is forgiving. Forgiveness means not demanding any payment or restitution for the offense. When Daniel asked God to forgive, he asks God not to demand any more payment from them. In a sense, Daniel is asking God to cancel their debt. This is what forgiveness is. It is not merely forgetting the offense and moving on. It is not demanding what is due to us. Justice we give what is due. If someone offended us, justice demands the offender repair the damage. Mercy realizes this offense cannot be repaid, so mercy forgives this debt. It cancels the debt and will not demand reparation for the offense.
The Psalm says this clearly. Lord, do not deal with us as our sins deserve. We tell God, I cannot fix what I have destroyed, so we beg God to have mercy and cancel our debt.
And God is merciful. He will cancel our debts when we repent. But God cannot cancel our debts if we do not ask. This thought today, in the midst of the pandemic, of praying to God to end the pandemic without repentance is not what forgiveness is about. If we have this kind of attitude, we make God into our servant. Daniel admitted their sins and asked for mercy. We too should confess our sins then we can beg for mercy. And when we beg for God’s mercy, he will hear and answer us.
Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. I cannot repair the relationship with you that I have destroyed. Forgive me and I want to turn back to you. I admit my sins, I admit my failing. You are the God of mercy and forgiveness. Forgive me Lord and restore me according to your mercy.