One of the things that I love about Azariah’s prayer from the Book of Daniel, our first reading for today’s liturgy, is that he offers a prayer that contains all four of the elements of prayer. He admits and asks pardon for his faults and the faults of his people. “Deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.” He praises God and exalts God’s name, thanking him for his judgments. “Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our ancestors.” Finally, he asks that God come to not only his own rescue but that of all his people. “For your name's sake, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one.” Like the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, Azariah includes all of the elements of prayer.
Of course, the predominant theme in Azariah’s prayer is his repentant attitude. If we read his story, however, we will find that despite his admission of guilt, he tried to live out the commandments in his own life. However, this culture sees the individual in the light of all the people, as part of the group. Consequently, he counts himself among the guilty because his countrymen have turned from the Lord.
Though we may not have the same viewpoint, we must all recognize the need for mercy in our lives. At the same time, we must also believe that God does forgive us. It has been said that one reason we have so much trouble forgiving others is the lack of faith we have in God’s forgiveness. If we really believed in God’s mercy and forgiveness, we probably would be more willing to forgive others.
As we continue through our Lenten sojourn, the Scriptures invite us to spend time letting God’s mercy seep into our very bones so that we can rebuild the bridges that have been brought down by our sins.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator