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23. February 2018 : Friday of the First week of Lent
St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (+ 167)
Book of Ezekiel 18:21-28.

Thus says the Lord GOD: If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,  if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?
And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live? None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin; because of this, he shall die.
You say, "The LORD'S way is not fair!" Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When a virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins which he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Psalms 130(129):1-2.3-4.5-7a.7bc-8.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.

I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than sentinels for dawn.
Let Israel wait for the LORD.

For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
and he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 5:20-26.

Jesus said to his disciples:  "I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.'
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny."

"Go first and be reconciled with your brother"
Saint Cyprian (c.200-258), Bishop of Carthage and martyr

The Lord's prayer

God has ordained that men should dwell peaceably and of one accord with each other, that they should live “of one mind in his house” (Ps 67,7 Vulg.). He desires that, once reborn in baptism, we should persevere in that condition in which our second birth has placed us. He desires that, since we are children of God, we should remain in God’s peace and that, since we have received the one Spirit, we should live in unity of heart and mind.

This is the reason why God does not receive the sacrifice of the man who lives in dissension. He decrees that we should leave the altar to be reconciled first of all with our brother so that God may accept the prayers offered to him in peace. The greatest sacrifice we can offer to God is our peace; it is fraternal harmony; and it is a people gathered together by that unity which exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.