Reflections

Saturday in the 1st Week of Lent, February 27, 2021

Like Your Heavenly Father—Be Perfect
Introduction
The life of a pious Jew could be summed up as a response to God’s covenant of love with a covenant loyalty. This is also the life of a Christian, even more so: as God takes the initiative of offering his gratuitous love to his people and to each of us, so we try to give him a response of faithful love and offer to our neighbour a spontaneous, gratuitous love which comes from the depth of our being and commits us beyond the call of the law. Christian life is then communion with God, communion with people, even with enemies, for there should be no enemies for Christians.
 
Opening Prayer
Lord God, from you comes the initiative of love.
You seek us out and you tell us:
“I am your God; you are my people.”
You love us in Jesus Christ, your Son.
God, may our response of love
go far beyond the demands of any law.
May we seek you and commune with you
in the deepest of our being
and may we express our gratitude to you
by going to our neighbour
with a love that is spontaneous like yours.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen!
 
1 Reading: Deuteronomy 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.”
 
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
R. (1b) Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
 
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who observe his decrees,
who seek him with all their heart. R.
 
You have commanded that your precepts
be diligently kept.
Oh, that I might be firm in the ways
of keeping your statutes! R.
 
I will give you thanks with an upright heart,
when I have learned your just ordinances.
I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me. R.
 
Gospel Acclamation: 2 Corinthians 6:2B
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
 
Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48
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, 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.”
 
Commentary
The love of neighbour is clearly stated in Leviticus 19:18, but the hatred of enemies is not found in any Old Testament text. Jesus is evidently attacking a common mindset that sharply contrasted relations with one’s countrymen and those outside.
Racial profiling has become part of our modern vocabulary. It signifies suspicion regarding people of a particular ethnic or racial background solely on the basis of their appearance. It has come into play in more cases than we would like. And can easily affect our own outlook as well. In Nigeria, the Fulani herdsmen has become so notorious that any is seen to be potential terrorist. Around the world, there are negatives feelings toward Middle Eastern people, people of the Muslim faith. The roots of this are found in the acts of terrorism that have been perpetrated on the West in modern times by people from the Arab world.
Our Gospel today addresses this problem very directly. The law of the former covenant commanded love of one’s fellow citizens. The mandate of Christ looks to love for everyone. We may say that we have no enemies. But when we begin to look down on the people of a particular ethnic strain because of terrorist activity of a very limited number, then our love of all is being limited. The majority of people want to live in peace and harmony. Our attitudes to each other should be characterized by fairness and equality.
For those who harbour enmity against us for whatever reason, we should pray regularly for a change of heart. It is also quite easy for us to develop a hostile mindset. From such an attitude we pray to be delivered, always confident that God’s grace will not be lacking.
 
Intercessions
• That our Church and our Christian communities may be places of forgiveness, where we let God’s sun shine on good and bad alike, we pray:
• That all of us may let our conscience guide us to choose good above evil, also when it is uncomfortable, we pray:
• That love may remain or become again the key to our understanding of all laws and commandments, we pray:
 
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God, loving Father,
in this Eucharist
your Son gives himself to you and to us
with a free response of total commitment.
May he share this kind of love with us,
that we may become inventive and creative
in committing ourselves to the happiness
of all those far and near,
that together we may be your people
and you our God for ever
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!
 
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
you have made us your priestly people
to proclaim to the whole world
that you are a saving and loving God.
Grateful for your spontaneous love,
may we be aware of our task,
and be your word that encourages and forgives,
your hands that bless,
your feet that seek out what is lost,
in the strength of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
 
Blessing
Love your enemies and pray even for those who hurt you. Not an easy task, but something that should be the mark of Christians. We have hurt God and he forgives. We should do the same for one another, with the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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