Daily Reflection
February 26th, 1999
Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office

Ezekiel 18:21-28
Matthew 5:20-26

"For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

I always get re-oriented by these powerful words of  Jesus.  How could my holiness possibly exceed or surpass that of those who follow "every letter of the Law"?   Jesus lets us know what he really means.  The more Jesus calls us to is a different kind of "perfection."  He says, "Go learn the meaning of the phrase, "It is compassion I desire, not sacrifice."

Most of the time, we tend to think of holiness as obedience. "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.'"  Jesus invites us to see holiness in terms of response to love.

Lent is a joyful season, because we prepare to celebrate the mystery of God's love for us, "with mind and heart renewed."  When we get to Holy Week and Easter, we want to be ready to celebrate.  And so we prepare for that celebration by spending these weeks recalling who we are.  The ashes are washed off, but we still remember who we are, when we remember that cross on our foreheads.

We are loved by God.  We are forgiven all our sins.  All of the ways we have not been faithful, reliable, honest, just, merciful, generous, courageous or free.  And, we are so loved, without condition.  He doesn't say, "I will love you as soon as you get your act together!"  No, the new covenant is sealed in the gift of his very body and blood poured out for us.

This is what we want to be feeling, experiencing, entering more deeply into during Lent.  As the power of this love seeps down into deeper and deeper layers of resistence and independence and stubborn pride, we become freer to accept it.  Growth in holiness is really growth in gratitude.  With gratitude, our fears melt away.  Who or what can hurt me?  Can anything separate me from the love of God?  With freedom from fear comes the courage to be generous, even heroic, in loving and serving others.

This is the "journey" of Lent.  And, as this happens, how could I possibly hold the sins of others against them?  How could I possibly say, "I praise you, O Lord, for your incredible love for me, a sinner, but I just hate Joe over there for being such a sinner"?  Jesus wants his love for me to soften and heal the angers in my heart.  My deepening gratitude for God's love for each and every unfinished, imperfect, even stubbornly sinful, part of me gives birth to compassion.  I experience a new solidarity with my brothers and sisters standing side by side with me at the foot of the cross.

Let's pray for each other, as we continue this journey into the depths of God's love.


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