- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of the prophet Ezekiel 18: 21-28
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Matthew 5: 20-26
1.3. Simple Comment: The prophet Ezekiel offers two scenarios, which are two opposite paths with two contrasting consequences: a sinner who repents lives while a virtuous man who stops fulfilling the commandments dies. Jesus presents a similar scenario involving the fulfillment/non-fulfillment of God’s commandments. Because God is Father, He wants us to live and not die; thus, He does not condemn us outright for missing the path. He offers us precious time so that we may retrace our steps back to Him. Psalm 130 confirms: “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness… with the Lord is kindness and with him plenteous redemption.”
- Monument: Capernaum
2.1. Kefar in Hebrew means town, and so Capernaum means the town of Nahum. It is where Simon Peter had his home. One of the first miracles of Jesus according to the Synoptic Gospels happened precisely in this house where Peter’s mother-in-law lay ill. Soon after her cure, the whole townsfolk brought their sick to Jesus and practically all through the night Jesus was healing people from their diseases and casting out the evil spirits that possessed them. So many miracles happened in this town, also several teachings of Jesus were proclaimed in their synagogue. St Matthew even called it “Jesus’ own town” although he was actually from Nazareth.
2.2. In the time of Jesus Capernaum was also a tax post. The Roman occupation used this town to levy tributes from its subjugated populace. The Romans used willing Jews to collect these forced levies from their compatriots, which made these men hated by the populace. It was in one such tax post Jesus met Matthew in Capernaum. He told him to follow Him and immediately he rose from his seat, left everything and took the company of the Master. In Jesus’ company he met Simon, Andrew, John, James and many others who similarly accepted Jesus’ call. He was their enemy when he extracted the taxes from their fish business; now together with Jesus they became friends.
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. The Gospel reading of today as narrated by Matthew is not a matter-of-fact teaching of Jesus; for Matthew it was true-to-life. Belonging to Jesus meant for Matthew to leave his old way of life and be one again with God, his forgiving Father. At the same time, in following Jesus and becoming his disciple, Matthew experienced the forgiveness of Simon, Andrew, James and John so that they who once were his hated enemies became his companions and brothers.
3.2. Repentance from sin is indeed a magnanimous grace of God. It is not just a forsaking of a sinful way of life; it is an embracing of God’s way of life, a way that gives life because it not only leads to peace with God but also to harmony and fraternity with one’s neighbor. For this reason, repentance is a characteristic Lenten invitation because by taking its path we are led to Jesus on the Cross where our sins are forgiven, but also on to the day of the Resurrection when the Risen Lord reconnects our relationships with the Father and with each other as brothers and sisters.
- Contemporary Filipino Question: We often see many Christians go to the confessional box during this season of Lent, and rightly so since it is a time of repentance. But rarely do we see persons going to the homes of their hated enemies, very probably homes of their own blood relatives, to seek peace and reconciliation. Do we still wonder why our confessions to God do not effect the real renewal it is meant to produce? How come after the Lenten season we do not experience a genuine Resurrection?