Scripture: Lectionary 231: Daniel 9:4-10. Psalm 79:18.104.22.168. Luke
Our reading from Daniel suggests a new personal penitential way of
responding to God’s tender-love (Hesed). In fact, the Pharisees, the Dead
Sea Scroll community, and early Christians took up this pattern of
repentance from Daniel; it is a source for returning to the Lord in humble
language and honesty before God’s mercy and love. During this Lenten
season this passage may easily be used for our preparation for the
sacrament of reconciliation–a good practice during Lent. There is a great
trust in God’s love and forgiveness because God is compassion and love for
all who repent. This is what the word “hesed” means in Hebrew. One way of
translating it is loving-kindess. It is at the center of our covenant with
God. In fact, of all biblical covenants both in the Old and New Testaments.
Daniel is written by an unknown author around the year 164 B.C. He places
his story during the time of the Exile and thus it will fit well with our
psalm for today, Psalm 79–an exilic psalm, that is, composed somewhere
between 587-537 B.C. The graphic and vivid destruction of Jerusalem and
the devestation of the holy city is seen also in the unburied corpses.
This communal lamentation again shows us God’s ever-present compassion and
kindness to his people. “Let thy compassions speedily come to meet us, for
we are brought very low. Help us , O God of our salvation, for the sake of
the glory of Thy name; and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name’s
sake.” (Psalm 79:8-9).
Jesus also speaks of God’s compassionate love as he encourages and even
commands us to be compassionate even as God is compassionate. This
consists on our part in not passing rash judgments on anyone, in not
condemning people, in pardoning or offenders, and giving of ourselves
generously to those who call upon us in their need. The poor are probably
understood since this is given in the Gospel of Luke who is very concerned
about the poor throughout his Gospel and the Acts.
Though “hesed” is translated as loving-kindness or compassion, the word
itself is one of the most sacred and profound in the Bible. Jesus is
helping us to understand it by saying it is of God. The other responsible
actions mentioned above are part of the compassion we are to have for