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When My Ego Gets in the Way

March 9, 2021   Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent (Lectionary: 238)

Reading I   Dn 3:25, 34-43
Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud:

“For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever,
or make void your covenant.
Do not take away your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,
Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,
To whom you promised to multiply their offspring
like the stars of heaven,
or the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

Responsorial Psalm   25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
R. (6a) Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Verse before the Gospel   Jl 2:12-13
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart;
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel   Mt 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

By McKenzie Stine 

How often do I belittle those I serve because I view their circumstance as “reduced?” And in doing so, does that not also reduce me?

I read Azariah praying “for we are reduced” and I see a man with his arms in the air, shouting at God. It reminds me of the times that I stand in the office or my bedroom at work, with my arms in the air and lose my cool about individuals I “serve.” This mental picture makes me wonder all the ways in which I fail to receive God’s love because I reduce others.



In looking at the context of my work (a live-in staff member at a maternity shelter), I believe I reduce others out of insecurity. In times in which I feel my authority or position challenged, or when I feel worthless, or I screw up and do not want to accept responsibility, or I get the backlash of anger geared towards someone else, or a client makes her lack of planning my emergency,

I reduce the people I serve to their circumstances.

In such moments of frustration and rudeness on my end, I find myself belittling her by attributing the situation to her mental health or immaturity. And that is plain cruel.

In those moments my first reaction is to label that individual as her barrier or her stigma. I reduce her humanity to her life context and find myself having to intentionally breathe before I can remember that I need to stop making this about myself and recognize that she is human too.



Admittedly, I’ve even found myself surprised when one of the women accomplishes something I had decided she did not possess the skills to accomplish. In my mind, I had reduced her abilities because she was living in a shelter and asking for assistance. In reality, that woman is simply trying to grow and better herself. Yet, I ignore that commonality, sometimes consciously, because it is a lot more work to acknowledge the fact that I am being mean and that I am wrong – that I am reducing.

At my core, I know that by allowing my implicit biases and frustrations to take charge in how I perceive others, I do not give God’s love.

And that in return, I inhibit myself from receiving God’s love from those I serve. What a nasty cycle.

Azariah is right in saying “let us be received.” I too need to be received. I too require God’s, wholehearted love. I need to be seen before my circumstances, before my faults, failures, struggles, less than perfect qualities – all things that God still loves me despite. No matter what, even when I reduce others, God accepts ME. Like me, me.

The me I struggle to see because my ego is reducing those around me when it feels insecure and is not taking the time to allow me to notice God moving, working, healing… receiving.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

McKenzie Stine is searching for what sets her heart on fire. She loves being on the lake with her family, asking/pondering questions, and baking cookies! She values when people gather and hopes to have acres of flowers and a nice front porch one day.

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