24 February 2018 – Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Deuteronomy 26:16-19, Psalms 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8, Matthew 5:43-48
Deuteronomy 28:16 – “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Matthew 5:48 – “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The theme of today’s liturgy is law but not just any kind of law. The Law of the Lord rests on the single crucial fact of God’s having chosen the Jewish people as His very own. He made an agreement, a covenant with them. He never intended His covenant to be a burden on them. He chose them simply because He loved them. He Himself compared the covenant to marriage between a man and a woman. Marriage implies mutual respect, mutual obligation and above all, mutual love. Marriage cannot be static – if it does not evolve into deeper and deeper love and trust, it deteriorates and falls apart. Both parties have to be faithful to the obligations they freely have taken upon themselves. And that is what this law of the Lord is all about.
We Christians believe, that the Old Testament people of God has evolved into the Church, the Body of Christ, His Spouse. At the Last Supper, Jesus said “This cup … is the new Covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:29)
We, as the people of God are still responsible for fulfilling our part of the Covenant. But we, like the Old Testament people can and do grow careless. The marriage ‘cools off’, as it were. It needs renewal, it needs a ‘marriage encounter’ with our God. Lent is an extended ‘married couples retreat’ for us and for Him!
At the Last Supper, Jesus established the new Covenant and He also gave us a new law “a new commandment” that we love one another. Yesterday, He told us how much we need forgiving hearts. Today He gets tough: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” And He ends with the command that may seem impossible to fulfil – “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Fulfilling Jesus’ command is what our Christian life and above all LENT, it all about. It is a progressive process of co-operating with God in His will to make us a perfect spouse for Himself. We can fast, give alms, pray day and night but it is all a waste of time unless we at least try to fulfill this new commandment of the Lord. The ideal Jesus sets before us is not just tolerance of those who do not like us or whom we do not like, or the stranger who make us feel afraid and protective of our ‘patch’. Too often tolerance comes close to mindless indifference, which is the exact opposite of love!
Life with God, like any marriage, has to be worked at. Love is hard, it is a lifetime task that is never finished. Nor will Christ’s Bride, the Church, be the perfect bride until the end of time. BUT, we can be sure our God will do His part. It is only when we do all in our power to love and forgive that He will take over and love in us, with our hearts and then we will be perfected as our heavenly Father is perfect!…..Fr E Lawerence OSB
Is there someone who has hurt me or who is ‘an enemy’? Pray for them!
Who are the groups in the world whom I hate or fear? Pray for them!
Are there strangers in my neighbourhood of whom I am perhaps nervous or afraid, go to them and pray for them!
Prayer for the Gift of Prayer
By St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) Doctor of the Church
O Incarnate Word,
You have given Your Blood and Your Life
to confer on our prayers that power by which,
according to Your promise,
they obtain for us all that we ask.
And we, O God,
are so careless of our salvation,
that we will not even ask You for the graces
that we must have, if we should be saved!
In prayer You have given us the key
of all Your Divine treasures;
and we, rather than pray,
choose to remain in our misery.
Alas! O Lord, enlighten us,
and make us know the value of prayers,
offered in Your name and by Your merits,
in the eyes of Your Eternal Father.