Immersed in Christ: March 7, 2020
Saturday, Week One of Lent
The Responsorial (Psalm 119 ) asserts the blessing of discipleship: “Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord."
Deuteronomy 26: 16-19: A principle of American jurisprudence is: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” For Christians, to seek knowledge of God’s law is a commitment.
Moses told the People, “Today you are making this agreement with the Lord: he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways,” observing all of God’s “statutes, commandments and decrees.”
Obviously, we can’t live by all of God’s principles and ideals if we don’t know what they are. And there is too much to learn overnight. Or over a lifetime. If it were just a matter of “statutes, commandments and decrees,” we could learn them in one catechism course! But the point of the Covenant is to absorb God’s mind and heart so completely through reflection on his words and wonders that we will “love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind.” For this the Liturgy of the Word invites us to become disciples.
There is more. The People are agreeing to live in a way that shows them to be “a people peculiarly his own.” “Peculiarly” just means “especially,” but the word makes a point: Any group of people who live by the ideals and principles God teaches will, in fact, seem “peculiar” to the unenlightened. Jesus calls his disciples to a radical peculiarity.
In Matthew 5: 43-48 Jesus zooms in on the “scandalous commandment,” the one that drew instant protest out of Peter. 1“Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” This just isn’t human. Every soldier we put in the field and every bomb we drop declares we would all as a nation rather kill our enemies than be killed loving them.
There is no escaping Jesus’ meaning. He declares categorically, “If any want to become my followers, let them... take up their cross and follow me. Those who want to save their life will lose it. Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” But we prefer to save our lives by killing our enemies (perhaps sending them to Hell, since they are presumably the “bad guys”) rather than let them send us to heaven by giving up our lives in love as Jesus did on the cross. According to Jesus, this is what God finds “peculiar.”
This is exactly what makes Jesus’ point when he says, “This will prove you are children of your heavenly Father….” Anybody who loves, not as humans do, but as God alone does, must be doing so by sharing in God’s divine life. It is above all by observing this commandment, treating every man and woman on earth as our brother or sister, that we reveal ourselves as the mystery of Christ’s risen body on earth, children of God the Father.
Obviously, it takes a lot of discipleship to grow into this one.
Initiative: Don’t give up. To love like God is a graduate course. Keep at it.
1 See Matthew 16:21-28. The basic principle here is that we love others, even enemies, enough to let them kill us rather than do them harm. This is just as shocking to us as it was to the first disciples.