Friday, Jun. 26th 2020

Friday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Today's Mass Readings

 

Our first reading today is a sad story. It is the recounting of the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile. Along with this story, I wish to comment on the difference between punishment and penance.

When we fail to live up to the expectations placed on us, like the ones we have been reflecting on this week, or in other ways, we must face their consequences. These consequences are, at times, a natural result of an action, and we understand that. Sometimes, they seem to be coming from God and these are hard to understand.

The people of Israel had failed, time and time again, to remain faithful to God and so lost everything. They were confused, God had promised this land to them and that he would never abandon them—they believed that they were being punished.

Punishment is an act of anger, even if justified, to hurt another. It usually has no other aim other than violent retribution. Penance, on the other hand, aims to change and restore.

Israel received a penance from God to restore them back to their original commitment by removing them from what was harming them—a difficult and painful process. When we experience penance, it feels like punishment because we are being asked to remove what is hurting us and return to God—a difficult and painful experience. God doesn’t punish us—he doesn’t commit violence for the sake of retribution—but God may give a penance so that we may return to him.

If we remain faithful to God, we remain in him and enjoy the fruit of that relationship. At times we fail and must work on removing what harms us, even if it is difficult and painful. Let us rejoice—yes, rejoice—that God cares so much, he is willing to be patient and lead us back to him.

Reflection by Fr. Etienne Huard, OSB

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