03Mar 03 March. Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Deut 26:16ff. Obedience of heart and soul makes us into a people “holy to the Lord.”

Matt 5:43ff. Go beyond mere obedience to law; become like your heavenly Father.

God’s own people

God first chose Israel, and within Israel included each of us, as “a people of his own.” God took the initiative to make his presence known within the depths of our mind and heart, in the subconscious of memory reaching back into that of our parents and ancestors, within the customs of our faith, echoing the prayer and traditions of our church. God’s call surrounds us like the sun and rain. While we are still asleep, God summons the sun to spread a burst of light across our day; while we are distracted by duties and grumbling about drought, God orders the rain to drop moisture upon our dry earth and weary hearts. God first loves us.

Just as God acts out of love, he wants each of us to respond “with all your heart and with all your soul.” The book of Deuteronomy returns repeatedly to the theme of “today” as the time to respond to God. “Today you are making this agreement with the Lord.” As with God so with us, the covenant needs to be renewed each day. Chapter 1 of Joshua extends the today of Deuteronomy into a recital of God’s love and our loving response “by day and by night” (Josh 1:8).

Lent is a time of fasting and prayer, of much human work and dedication, so that we may be disposed to let the beat of God’s heart and the rhythm of his spirit take possession of ours. Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord.

First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19

This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honour; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48

“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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.