23 February. Saturday in the First Week of Lent
All members of the ACP are most welcome to contribute Homily Resource material to this website.
Two paragraphs are fine for weekdays; a little more for Sundays. If possible, send it to me at least a week in advance of the date on which it applies. Send it to: rogers AT mountargus.ie
Deut. 26:16ff. Obedience of heart and soul makes us into a people “holy to the Lord.”
Mt 5:43ff. Go beyond the law, to be “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
First Reading: From the Book of 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.”
A people formed in his own image
God chose Israel, and within Israel included each of us as “a people peculiarly his own.” Just as we were born out of love, God wants each of us to respond accordingly “with all your heart and with all your soul.” Why? Because God first loves us from the depth of the divine mind and heart. Day by day, hour by hour we ought to be re-dedicating ourselves to God, in good circumstances and bad ones, with friends and with enemies, in sunlight and in dark rainy stretches. The beat of our heart ought to be responding to God’s beat, the intake of our life-breath to the breathing of God’s spirit upon us. God first loves us with heart and soul moment by moment, and to live we must resonate or vibrate this divine heartbeat and breathing of life. And so we will “be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
To absorb this divine perfection is not a one-sided effort on our part – though we should summon all our energy of mind and heart to this effort. Rather – as was stresses by St. Paul and further developed by St. Augustine – it is mainly the result of responding to God’s initiative, therefore of surrendering to God with all our heart and mind. Each in our own way, we must reflect God’s goodness, and in this way be “perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord, by making space in our hearts for God to work within us. It’s worth noting that where St. Matthew has Jesus urging us to be “perfect” in imitation of our heavenly Father, St. Luke’s version of the same sermon has Jesus urging us to be “merciful” in imitation of our God. In The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare captures the Lukan version perfectly when he has Portia say this about the quality of mercy:
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
When mercy seasons justice.