AD SENSE

1st Week of Lent, Saturday, Feb 27

1st Week of Lent, Saturday, Feb 27

Deut 26:16-19 / Matthew 5:43-48 


Jesus teaches about love; "Pray for your Persecutors. " 

A father and his son were traveling by bus. The father inadvertently violated a minor safety regulation. The bus driver went berserk. He verbally abused the father, humiliating him in front of his little son and the rest of the passengers.

After it was all over, the boy said to his father, "Dad, you didn't have to take that. He was out of line." "Son," said the father, "that poor man has to put up with himself twenty-four hours a day. The least I can do is to put up with him for two minutes."

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How do we respond when we are humiliated or treated rudely?

Lord, help us respond to verbal abuse not by becoming abusive ourselves, but by showing understanding, as you did.

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The life of a pious Jew could be summed up as a response to God’s covenant of love with a covenant loyalty. This is also the life of a Christian, even more so: as God takes the initiative of offering his gratuitous love to his people and to each of us, so we try to give him a response of faithful love and offer to our neighbour a spontaneous, gratuitous love which comes from the depth of our being and commits us beyond the call of the law. Christian life is then communion with God, communion with people, even with enemies, for there should be no enemies for Christians.

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People who are searching for a religion to adhere to may ask this question: How is Christianity different from the rest of the other religions? Well, of course there are many ways to answer that question. One answer could be this - Christianity doesn't just teach you to be good; Christianity teaches you to be like God!

That was what Jesus meant when He said: You must be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. In other words, we must be holy, just as our heavenly Father is holy. We must be like God our Father, no less. To be like God means to do what Jesus did. And that is to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. People might say that that is crazy, but that is what it means to be holy. So, can it be possible to be holy as God is holy?

As the 1st reading puts it, when we declare that God is our only God, then God will also make the declaration that we are His very own people. God will consecrate us with His love and we will be living images of His holiness in the world. So is the Lord God our only God? That is the question that we have to answer in the purifying season of Lent.

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Encountering Christ: 

1.       The Challenge: Few passages of Scripture are as unpalatable as today’s Gospel. Over two thousand years after our Lord spoke these words, they can be just as hard to hear. Generally, we don’t want to love people who do not love us nor do not want to pray for them. We prefer to greet and spend time with those whose company we enjoy. And as for people who persecute us, isn’t it enough to try to stay out of their way? Jesus was speaking to a people who knew all too well what it was to have enemies. The Jews of his time lived under military occupation. Furthermore, Jesus certainly knew of the persecution that was to come against the early Christians. Still, he insisted that his followers set aside hatred and radiate his love to all, even their bitter enemies. What a challenge! 

2.       Perfect Abundance: Jesus wants to set us free from evil, hatred, and jealousy. He knows that when we fume and stew over injustices, real or perceived, we are turning away from the abundant life he offers us. He wants to give us the joy and freedom that comes from forgiving others. He promises deep peace when we pray for a person who has wronged us. Jesus asks of us something that is possible only with his grace. Perhaps today the closest we can get to perfect is to ask Jesus to give us the will to forgive, or the words to pray for someone who has wronged us. In Jeremiah 29:11, we are promised, “I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When Jesus breaks the bonds of hatred, revenge, and bitterness in our hearts, we are truly set free to live as children of God.

3.       It’s A Battle: The world tells us to stand up for our needs and seek out what gives us pleasure. The Word tells us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all else will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). As a soldier remains constantly alert and on guard, we must be vigilant and constantly beg the Holy Spirit for the grace to love our enemies, to pray for those who do us wrong. Our Father, in his wisdom, knows that this is our only path to peace. 

Conversing with Christ: Lord, fill my heart with trust in your promises. When the enemy of my soul whispers and I feel hatred towards others, grant me the grace to turn to you for strength. Teach me to see others through your eyes and fill my heart with your love. Thank you for enlightening me and guiding me to seek out the abundant life you promise. 

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray an intentional rosary, naming any individual I need to forgive and asking for the grace to do so. 

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Prayer

Lord God, from you comes the initiative of love.  You seek us out and you tell us: “I am your God; you are my people.”  You love us in Jesus Christ, your Son.  God, may our response of love go far beyond the demands of any law.  May we seek you and commune with you in the deepest of our being and may we express our gratitude to you by going to our neighbour with a love that is spontaneous like yours. We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen