I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, "Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
"Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you.
Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
Do not hold the guilt of our fathers against us.
Let your compassion hasten to meet us
for we are in the depths of distress. (R./)
O God our saviour, come to our help,
come for the sake of the glory of your name.
O Lord our God, forgive us our sins,
rescue us for the sake of your name. (R./)
Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
let your strong arm reprieve those condemned to die.
But we, your people, the flock of your pasture,
will give you thanks for ever and ever.
We will tell your praise from age to age.. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged;do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
People of faith in the Jewish tradition often appealed to the mercy of God and believed it would be granted.. It's not something that we do so much these days....But perhaps we should. Confessing our sinfulness is a sure way to gain the divine mercy and the grace of renewal. There is much in today's first reading that we can make our own, as a petition for our times.
It's not that Daniel himself was notably sinful, but he felt on his shoulders the weight of his people's sins. His "Confiteor" is mainly expressed in the plural. "We have sinned and done wrong." He does not say exactly how, but is probably referring to the sinful situation that had led to the people's exile in Babylon. He himself feels an intense need for conversion, both in his personal life, but especially in his people's return to the practice of their faith. He makes a heartfelt plea for reform and renewal.
"We have acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments." This could refer both to before and during the exile, when many in Israel drifted away from their religion and adopted foreign ways. In particular, Daniel regrets his people's stubborn refusal to repent, even when they got clear and firm guidance from prophecy, "We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name."
Further in that same chapter it says how Daniel's prayer was heard-- and how God gave him gifts of wisdom and of leadership for his people. "While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and .. Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice and said, "Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding... I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved." (Dn 9:20-23)
Daniel admits to being "shamefaced" in the presence of God. Shame can be destructive or it can be purifying. It can lead to humility and honesty. It can help the adult to be again as a child in spirit, in trust, willing to learn. Such an adult trusts, loves and forgives as easily as God himself. "Of such is the kingdom of God."
Whereas the climax of Matthew's version of the Sermon on the Mount is, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect", Luke, in the same context has, "Be merciful, as your Father is merciful." This expectation in Luke seems more specific and more attainable. All sinners ought to be capable of compassion, as they continually seek this very response of mercy from God. Yet, Jesus does not allow half-measures; it must be all, it seems, or nothing! Pardon must be bestowed so generously upon anyone who has hurt us, that it runs over and pours into the folds of one's own garments. We are expected to bestow twice as much love as the other person showed us hate, twice as much trust as the other party manifested suspicion.
This beautiful ideal of compassion can be partly learned, as we meditate upon the example of Jesus who died for us when as yet we were God's enemies by our sins (Rom 5:8). Yet, this attitude of overwhelming goodness and understanding can never be fully and adequately learned by study nor be acquired by human effort, no matter how diligent and persevering we may be. We cannot transform ourselves into God, as the human race should have learned at the beginning (Gen 3:5).
The way to give ourselves to God is unconditionally and without reservation. Without anticipating all that will happen to us and be asked of us, we give ourselves totally into God's hands. We try to enter Jesus. prayer: "not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). God will then act through us, reaching others with infinite compassion, infinite tenderness, infinite trust! Without counting the cost or the outcome, such divine life will overflow into the folds of our garments! Lenten fasting may reduce the aggressiveness of our responses. If it is accompanied by a surrender of our spirit to God, then divine grace will flow through us. Our fasting reminds us and symbolizes to others that God alone is the source of our decisions and actions.
Led by this divine spirit of compassion and pardon, we can pray for mercy with the confidence of Daniel in today's reading. We can admit to God that "we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and laws." Whein confessing our sins, we are already within the bond of God's love and our sins are gone forever, driven out by God's holy spirit already within us.