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March 15, 2019: Friday of the First Week of Lent

Reading Ezekiel 18:21-28
Gospel Matthew 5:20-26

“Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

When you take up a passage of Sacred Scripture, remember that the passage may have several different meanings. At a single sitting, you would likely only ponder one particular meaning, so as to keep your focus. But after you’ve spent many months and years in prayerful reflection upon the Bible, as you come upon a passage that you’ve reflected upon before, you ought to consider whether there’s an additional meaning that you haven’t previously considered.

The Church has an ancient practice of looking within any particular Scripture passage for four different types of meaning, or “senses”. Not every passage will bear all four, but we need to look for all four when we take up any given passage. These four senses are: the literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical. Without explaining what all four of these are, simply consider today’s Gospel passage in regard to the last of these four senses, the anagogical.

Simply put, the anagogical sense of Scripture takes the literal meaning of a passage and considers what it reveals about “the Last Things”. The Last Things are Heaven and hell, death and judgment. So while today’s parable might seem at first hearing only to relate to how a Christian ought to act in this world, the anagogical sense shows how the same parable also applies to life after death. Reflect, then, on how Jesus’ words following the parable—“Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny”—teach us about the nature of God’s justice in requiring Christians who have been saved by God’s grace to undergo purification in Purgatory before being capable of sharing in the fullness of divine love in Heaven.