1st Week of Lent
1st Reading: Dt 26:16-19
Moses spoke to the people, saying: “This day the Lord, your God, commands you to observe these statutes and decrees. Be careful, then, to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you are making this agreement with the Lord: he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to his voice. And today the Lord is making this agreement with you: you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you; and provided you keep all his commandments, he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations he has made, and you will be a people sacred to the Lord, your God, as he promised.”
Gospel Mt 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
You must be perfect! There is a story by Anthony de Mello. A guy buys a newspaper every day from a newspaper vendor. The newspaper vendor is always rude to him. So, a friend of his says, “Why do you buy your paper from this guy? He’s always rude to you. Why don’t you buy it from someone else just next door?” Says the guy, “Why should the vendor decide where I buy my newspaper? Why should he have the power to decide that?” You must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect! This means having God’s Spirit in all your affairs for he shines the sun on the good and bad alike. Do not permit the evil to change your resolve to do good. That is the meaning of Christian love – shun bitterness, have the goodwill to desire the highest good for all, even your enemies. This is only possible with God’s grace. He is the one that perfects us.
PRAYER: Lord grant us an unwavering benevolence so that we can transform the world with your law of love! Amen!
Stooping to conquer: The Israelites have a covenant with God and they need to trust and obey the commands for God to fulfil His part. These commandments are narrowed down to two by Jesus: love of God and love of neighbour. The neighbour is not only the friend, but also the enemy. It is in loving the enemy that God grants greater reward. That is the mark of true Christianity. If only we all could offer a generous smile, and attempt a handshake with a perceived enemy, the world could have a lot of positive energy. This is a call to strike at the root of enmity rather than piling up weapons of mass destruction. Every human bears the spark of the Divine. How come we choose to hate. Let us tend the flames of fellowship and fan up the fires of brotherhood. Only then shall the world be better.
Prayer: God my Father, let me love and care for all human kind, especially those with whom I interact.
WANTING TO BE LIKE GOD: Wanting to imitate God is a tall claim. Yet, Jesus invites us to do so: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Wanting to be like God in his knowledge and power is sin (Gen 3:5). However, the desire to imitate God in his goodness and compassion is perfection. He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. This is his perfection. This is giving someone not what they deserve, but what they need. Also, this is what our own compassion should consist in. God is our measuring rod. It is a very demanding journey towards such perfection. It is not as easy as eating an apple, but we keep striving.
REVENGE CONTRARY TO LOVE: We often hear people taking revenge on their enemies because they have been wronged. The Hammurabi Code is even more exact, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. People hurt others because they have been hurt by them. We may have done something bad to other people ourselves, but it is because they did it first to us. The first instinct we have is to destroy those who destroy us, but is this right? The Lord teaches us that for those who have hurt us, we grant ourselves the ability to be patient and to pray for them that they may turn over a new leaf. We do not judge, for it is the Lord who does the judging between the good and evil. Offer love not only to our loved ones, but also to strangers. Start off by offering a smile to people we pass by on the way to work or school. Make a simple greeting to the guard directing the traffic, to the shopkeeper offering her goods. Love changes the other person. The Father is righteous and offers mercy. Let us make Him the model in our everyday conduct.