Roger van der Weyden: The Archangel Michael
From the Altarpiece of the Last Judgment (detail)
Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, 1443-46
Friday of the First Week of Lent
Reading I: Ez 18:21-28
But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them (NRSV, Ez 18:21-22a).
Let us pray.
Father, so many Christians look on the final day as one of judgment in which all of one’s life will be placed on the balance and the good weighed against the evil that we have done. In the late Middle Ages there was a popular artistic representation found all through Europe with the Archangel Michael holding the scales and demons and angels struggling for the souls of the deceased.
But as I read the gospels, Father, I find there a Jesus who announces true forgiveness of sins, a forgiveness which involves a wiping away of the past and a really new beginning. Even the prophet Ezekiel tells us that, as we repent and choose to do that which is good, the past drops away forgotten. We are, Lord, what we make ourselves to be in the moment in response to your gift of forgiveness and new life.
As we accept forgiveness and begin anew we shall always be mindful of the effects of the past evil that we have done and, moved by your divine favor, we shall make every effort to correct the injustices that we have caused.
Father, we are grateful for the gift of divine forgiveness which you offer to us in every moment, even when it is not sought. May we always be ready to change our lives, to let go of our sinful past and to accept growth in your divine life so freely given. May the last day be for all of us not a time of tribulation but of great joy as we accept even more fully the life that you share with us.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen