The Gospel today ends with the line, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The responsorial psalm starts with, “Blessed are they whose way is blameless.” Both appear, at first glance, to infer that perfection and blamelessness are necessary to earning God’s blessing—which means very, very few of us would ever receive His grace. How do we reconcile such a message with the message our faith gives us, that God is loving and merciful?
This Saturday of the First Week of Lent is a perfect time to be mindful of the fact that we are not perfect, and need God’s grace to keep working toward what Moses imparts in the first reading; “Be careful to observe (God’s statutes and decrees) with all your heart and with all your soul.” The more we work to do so, the closer to perfection we become. The more we endeavor to embrace His lessons, the better we “seek Him with all our hearts.” Seeking God, giving Him thanks, hearing the teachings of Jesus, move us in the right direction, toward God.
If we do our humanly flawed best to live as God intends, if we show more compassion for those who oppose us, if we pray for those who persecute us, reach out to those we do not know, offer our service to those in need, then we live closer to God. It may not happen every minute, or every day, but the readings remind us that we need to try, and be mindful of our purpose.
During Lent, many choose to sacrifice something in order to symbolically align with the suffering of Christ prior to his crucifixion. Perhaps, in order to also align ourselves with Jesus’ statement to “be perfect, just as (our) heavenly father is perfect,” we might also consider adding something to our Lenten life. Why not endeavor to consciously work to be more present, more compassionate, more prayerful, of more service to others? Let’s try to make it part of our daily practice. After all, no one will blame us for trying, right?
—Gail H. Dennig, English Department