Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:43-48
43 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19
16 "This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 You have declared this day concerning the LORD that he is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his ordinances, and will obey his voice; 18 and the LORD has declared this day concerning you that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19 that he will set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he has spoken."
Meditation: Do you know the love that conquers every fear, sin, and selfish desire? God renews his love for us each and every day. His love has the power to free us from every form of evil - selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, jealously and envy. In Jesus' teaching on the law he does something quite remarkable and unheard of. He transforms the old law of justice and mercy with grace (favor) and loving-kindness.
Grace and loving-kindness
God is good to the unjust as well as the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate or cause ill-will. Our love for others, including those who are ungrateful or selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.
How can we possibly love as God loves and overcome evil with good? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good. Such love and grace has power to heal and to save from destruction. Do you know the power of Christ's redeeming love and mercy?
Perfect - made whole
Was Jesus exaggerating when he said we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48)? Jesus' command seems to parallel two passages from the Old Testament Scriptures. The first is where God instructed Abraham to "be perfect" or "blameless" before God (Genesis 17:1). The original meaning of "perfect" in Hebrew and the Aramaic dialect is "completeness" or "wholeness" - "not lacking in what is essential."
The second passage that seems to parallel Jesus' expression, "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" is the command that God gave to Moses and the people of Israel to "be holy, for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2). God made each of us in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26,27). That is why he calls us to grow in maturity and wholeness so we can truly be like him - a people who love as he loves and who choose to do what is good and to reject what is evil and contrary to his will (Ephesians 4:13-16).
God knows our sinfulness and weaknesses better than we do - and he assures us of his love, mercy, and help. That is why he freely gives us his power, strength, and gifts so that we may not lack anything we need to do his will and to live as his sons and daughters (2 Peter 1:3). Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Ask the Holy Spirit to purify and transform you in the image of the Father that you may walk in the joy and freedom of the Gospel.
"Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart ablaze with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone."
1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law
of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.
8 I will observe your statutes; O forsake me not utterly!
A Daily Quote for Lent: The gift to love all people - even enemies, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Beg God for the gift to love one another. Love all people, even
your enemies, not because they are your brothers and sisters but
that they may become such. Love them in order that you may be at
all times on fire with love, whether toward those who have become
your brothers and sisters or toward your enemies, so that by being
beloved they may become your brothers and sisters." (excerpt from Sermon on 1 John 10,7)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible:
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright
1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard
Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the
Division of Christian Education of the National
Council of the Churches of Christ in the United
States of America. Used by permission. All rights
reserved. Citation references for quotes from
the writings of the early church fathers can be
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