Monday of Week 2 of Lent – First Reading

Commentary on Daniel 9:4-10

The theme of the readings today is repentance; it is a prayer for God’s mercy and compassion. It is extraordinary that for over 1,000 years this prayer from the Book of Daniel has been read in today’s Lenten Mass. It is an excellent penance prayer – a national act of contrition describing God’s perfection and man’s imperfection. It is a prayer of sorrow and repentance for the many ways in which we have failed to listen to God and his messengers. It is a prayer which contains humility, worship, confession and petition:

…we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, [turned] aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets…


Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us…

So much of the time, these are not the words we hear from people’s lips – or our own. As soon as something goes wrong, we immediately start looking around for someone to blame.

Our media spend a great deal of time and space pointing fingers at others as the source of our troubles. We call it “scapegoating”. It is something we all indulge in to a greater or lesser extent. Just let us listen to a few people gossiping together over a pint or a cup of coffee.

Today’s reading calls on us to point the finger at ourselves and to be fully aware of how we have failed, have sinned, have rebelled – and have much to be shameful for. A good way to measure our sensitivity in this area might be to look at our confessions. When we do go, what do we confess to? Do we just throw out a few platitudinal admissions (‘telling lies’, ‘distractions at prayers’, ‘losing our temper’…) or do we go deep into the areas where we truly fail in our relationship with God, with others and with ourselves?

Perhaps we do not go to Confession at all because “we can’t think of anything to say”. At the same time, most of us would be very slow to reveal to others our inner thoughts and feelings because, to tell the truth, we are quite ashamed of them. Paradoxically, it is often the Saint, the one who is closest to God, who is most aware of his or her sinfulness and need for healing.

Lent is a time for conversion, renewal and change. It is a time for openness – especially with oneself. That cannot even begin to take place until we are aware of and acknowledge in ourselves the areas where that change has to take place.

And, having recognised our faults and the harm they have done to others and to ourselves in our relationships with God, we beg his mercy and compassion. And we know for certain that God’s mercy and compassion are guaranteed, once we open ourselves to him.

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