After my first review of the readings for today, my thought was the message is clear and simple. We have been given some very specific directions – not much question in terms of what they mean. So . . .we just have to follow them. That is where the challenge begins. How DO we live our lives according to these simple rules? How DO we keep our part of the agreement? How DO we love our enemy?
The first reading is a beautiful invitation to us as well as a promise. As I read this, I was reminded how truly blessed we are. What a deal!! We walk in His ways, listen to His voice, and obey the commandments and in return we are His sacred people and in line for praise and glory. Of course, there is that condition about obeying and listening. For some of us, that would be me, that condition can be a challenge. Knowing what I should do and then doing it sometimes has quite a distance between. I remember when I first learned the Act of Contrition as a child and truly each time I say it as an adult, I am reminded of my frailties and failings and that chasm that I create for myself.
The responsorial psalm, indeed, inspires us and supports us to follow the law. What a motivation with the repeating phrase that we are blessed. It affirms our rewards for obeying the rules. We grow up with all types of rules from parents and school and others. We want and look for rewards if we obey the rules. Not unlike my rat terrier, Lei-Lei, who patiently sits at the top of the stairs when she has gone outside and behaved appropriately. She expects a treat – we want to know we are rewarded. Unfortunately, we do not always recognize the myriad of rewards that surround us. The blessings that are bestowed upon us everyday are all too often taken for granted. We are so busy with our day-to-day that we miss the butterflies and the rainbows. Instead, we wait at the top of the stairs for our treat and miss those daily gifts.
Matthew presents to us the ultimate challenge in the last reading. We are to love our enemies. Jesus proclaims that if we are to be children of God, we need to go the extra mile. In terms of current language, we need to push the envelope and get out of our comfort zone. It is pretty easy to love our family (well, most days!!). The challenge is to extend those same kindnesses to those who could/would show us ill will. I once heard that when you are meeting with someone that upsets you or with whom you are uncomfortable, the secret is to pray to his or her patron saint. Now, that is a switch for me – I always pray to my guardian angel in those situations and to Mary that she intercede that I be granted grace in my coping. Perhaps by praying to their patron saint, we are extending love to them. At the very least, it forces us to take a step back and see them in a different light.
The bottom line is clear, we are loved and blessed. Our rewards are abundant and our challenge is straightforward: we are to love in the same way we are loved – without judgment and without expectation of being loved in return. No one ever said this was going to be easy – the promise is we are not alone!!
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