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March 16: Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Reading Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Gospel Matthew 5:43-48

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus focuses our attention on how to love our neighbor. As a backdrop to His words today, we ought to keep in mind Jesus’ two great commands: to love God and to love our neighbor. We also need to remember His parable about the Good Samaritan, and its point concerning who exactly our neighbor is.

Jesus is teaching us not only not to hate our enemies, but to consider them our neighbors. To help us appreciate this, Jesus points to the impartiality of God’s treatment of human beings even on the natural level of life: “your Heavenly Father... makes His sun rise on the bad and the good”. So also His Son died and rose for the bad and the good on the supernatural level.

The last sentence of today’s Gospel passage sums up this section from the Sermon on the Mount: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Here we see Jesus drawing His two great commands ever closer. We cannot love our God any more than we love our neighbors. If I am excluding others from the definition of “my neighbors”, than to that extent I am excluding God from my life. This is so because God extends His love to every person. No person can ever be “God-forsaken”, but only “me-forsaken”. But if I forsake another, it’s not only that other’s loss, but mine as well.