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Saturday of the First Week in Lent

Friday, February 23, 2018



Dt 26:16-19; Ps 119:1-5, 7-8; Mt 5:43-48
“Do not utterly forsake me.”

Can there be a more unimaginable punishment? What can it mean to be utterly forsaken? If the LORD utterly forsakes us do we even continue to exist? How can we exist if we are not remembered? If the LORD who remembers us does not hold us in existence, do we exist at all? We are enlightened by the saints who teach us that everything that exists does so because God keeps it in his infinite mind. Beyond that most basic level of relationship we also exist in the state of grace, God lives in us because of his mercy that we celebrate in the sacraments. Even more profoundly we live and move and have our being in God by conversion. Every level of existence is by the ineffable and gratuitous mercy of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Such a precious gift is true blessedness. We continue to grow in this blessedness by being blameless. We cannot be blameless unless we walk in the law of the LORD. When we observe his decrees and seek him with all our hearts, we are blessed. We grow more and more diligent in his commands, and we become more and more firm in the ways of keeping his statutes. For this abundant life we give thanks with an upright heart. When we have learned his just ordinances and kept his statutes then, and only then, do we become more and more confident that he will not utterly forsake us. Such is the life of grace and glory. Such is the confident assurance that makes us blameless and blessed. Our first reading identifies this kind of people as those the LORD God wants for his own, a peculiar people, a people sacred to the LORD. In the gospel the Lord Jesus reveals that such a people will be perfect as the Father in Heaven is perfect. Only by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus is such a destiny possible. Only in the power of the Holy Spirit could such a destiny be commanded.

Why did the LORD God want a people high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations? Why did he fashion such a people, peculiar and sacred? For one reason only did the LORD God reveal himself to Moses and reveal his will on the Holy Mountain. The LORD God wanted to love. He chose to love and he chose to make us capable of loving him in return. Such was his eternal plan. A plan he did not hesitate to initiate and pour himself into no matter how frequently we failed to take him seriously. From the days of Moses, he spoke to the people and summoned them to observe his commands with all their heart and soul. This was the original agreement; this was the communal response to the LORD’s voice. It was through this less than perfect response all through history that the LORD’s own Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Now, we can by faith see, hear, touch, and even smell and taste the goodness of the LORD in the self-gift of his Son, Jesus the Christ, who gave us and still gives us his own body, blood, soul and divinity. Gift upon gift, grace upon grace, love upon love brings us from glory to Glory, now and always and ever and forever.

This New Moses, the Lord Jesus, takes a command of the law and gives us a new commandment. The covenant with his Holy People revealed that the ways of the LORD demanded love of neighbor and hate for enemies. Those who formed community with you could not be ignored or used as a means to an end. Each neighbor was to be treated as an end in himself. Persons have intrinsic dignity given by God, and they cannot be treated as objects. This injunction was startling and demanding. The follow-up command to hate those who opposed you and your neighbors was a part of that call to love the neighbor unconditionally. When anyone opposed or attacked your neighbor, you had to defend and safeguard the life of your neighbor. Self-defense was expanded to include one’s neighbor. Now one’s love had to extend beyond the self. Immediate self-preservation was no longer the boundary. Now neighbor-preservation is commanded. Faithfulness to such a command would indeed make a community peculiar and sacred, highly praised and greatly valued among the nations. However, the grace and glory does not remain behind this boundary. The Lord Jesus commands, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Now, this commandment is altogether too much. How can one fulfill such a demand? Indeed, it is impossible without the perfect Father loving perfectly in the broken body and poured out blood of his precious One, the Only Begotten Son. Indeed, he has made his Son, who did not know sin, to be sin. That is like the sacrifice upon the altar that absorbed the sin of the people and cleansed them from their sins, so too, the Eternal Son made flesh and crucified upon the cross was made sin and became for us the source of all holiness and mercy from age to age and for ever and forever. 


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