Father David's Reflection for First Saturday in Lent
The Responsorial Psalm assures us "Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord" (Psalm 119).
Deuteronomy 26: 16-19 makes this a promise: "Provided you keep all his commandments, God will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations. and you will be a people sacred to the Lord, your God, as he promised."
Is this a motive for learning and living by God's directions? We may not need "praise and glory" as a nation, but we do want the Church to stand out as true and holy, so that people will seek and find fullness of life through her ministry.
For this it is not enough for us just to "avoid sin" by keeping the Ten Commandments; we have to live lives so different, so strikingly good, that they cannot be explained without a real knowledge of the Gospel. This means that we ourselves must first go deeply into the Gospels to see the heights to which Jesus calls us. We need to be disciples.
In Matthew 5: 43-48 Jesus says the sign and proof that we are his disciples will be the level of our love. All good human beings love their "own" - family, friends, fellow citizens, those who love them and good people in general. But Jesus tells us to love, not as humans do, but as God does. "This will prove you are children of your heavenly Father.." So we must love our enemies.
By our enemies Jesus means people who are mean to us at work, who cheat us in business, talk about us behind our backs, betray our trust, rob and kill us. He means terrorists and people with whom we are at war. These are the people he says we should love: our real enemies.
It is only when we love our enemies that we show how different Christianity is from all other religions. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"(John 13:35). Love is the highest act of living. If our love is no higher than anyone else's, what puts our life on the level of God's? And if we are not living on the level of God, how can we be living by grace, which is "the favor of sharing in God's divine life"? If we share in God's life, we must share in God's love. But God loves every person he has made and is constantly trying to help all of them.
If we love people who are doing bad things we may suffer more, because now we will care about them. We can't just write them off with some demeaning label, as if they were not human or worthy of our concern. So do you believe they are "happy" who follow this "law of the Lord"?
Initiative: Be a disciple. Learn from Jesus' own example on the cross the kind of love to which we are called. At every Mass offer yourself with him to love like this.