February 27, 2021
Saturday of the first week of Lent
Saturday, Week 1 of Lent
1st Reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Walking in the way of the Lord
This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honour; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.
Responsorial: from Psalm 119
R./: Happy are those who follow the law of the Lord
They are happy whose life is blameless,
who follow God’s law.
They are happy those who do his will,
seeking him with all their hearts. (R./)
You have laid down your precepts
to be obeyed with care.
May my footsteps be firm
to obey your statutes. (R./)
I will thank you with an upright heart
as I learn your decrees.
I will obey your statutes;
do not forsake me. (R./)
Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48
Our vocation is to become perfect, in God’s image
Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Following the way of the Lord
God chose the Israelites (and we belong to the new Israel), to be his special people. Our best gift is an awareness of the divine presence within xx, which then moves us to live as God’s children. The divine presence is all around us like the sunshine and the very air we breathe. From our mother’s womb, the love of God has enfolded us.
In response to this love each person is called to love God “with all your heart and all your soul.” Deuteronomy repeatedly uses the words “now” and “today” to say that our response to God should be ongoing. “Today you are entering this bond with the Lord.” Our commitment needs renewal xx day. The book of Joshua extends this message of Deuteronomy and calls for our response “by day and by night” (Josh 1:8). Lent is a time for renewing personal prayer, letting the rhythm of God’s spirit take us over. Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord.
But the call is to perfection, not to perfectionism. To be a perfectionist is to be a martinet, demanding that everything be done precisely right, down to the last detail. While Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” it is not about punctiliousness. The corresponding words in Luke’s gospel resemble those, except that where Matthew has “perfect“, Luke has “merciful.” “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” This was Luke’s inspired interpretation of what perfection meant for Jesus.
To follow Jesus fully we need to learn to love without condition, even so far as loving those who have harmed us or make life difficult for us. We are to go on loving, regardless how people respond to us. This is the summit of idealism in the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps this ideal seems unrealistic and we may never quite match up to it, but we can grow towards it with God’s help. Later on in Matthew’s gospel we are assured that “for God, all things are possible.”