First Saturday of Lent

Readings: Dt 26: 16-19 / Ps 119: 1-2, 4-5, 7-8 / Mt 5: 43-48


What an interesting combination of scripture. In the passages from Deuteronomy and the Psalms we hear about how important it is to follow the laws of God. But the language is not grave. It is celebratory. Happy are the people who follow the statutes of the Lord. They are upright and strong and righteous. And they are certainly safe because they are on the side of God.

And then comes the passage from Matthew where Jesus seems to flip the script and create a scenario designed not to comfort us but to challenge and disrupt our comfort. Juxtaposed to the safety and security of following God’s laws comes Jesus’ challenge to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus tells us that there is really nothing amazing about loving people who already love you. The challenge is to love those who are almost guaranteed not to love you back. What does this kind of love look like? We tend to think of love as passive and accepting of the other. To love someone is to let them be who they are. This is not the kind of love that Jesus is talking about. He is describing the kind of love that Diane Nash describes as ‘Agapic Love’. This love is far from passive. It is active. It stands in the presence of enemies and defies their fear with a love that is more powerful than we might imagine. It disrupts the enemy relationship because it takes two to stay enemies. This is the love that Jesus is described. It is same kind of love that holds up the laws and statutes referred to in the earlier passages. They are not juxtaposed at all; but they are a high bar, requiring rare courage. 

Timothy Horner
Center for Peace and Justice Education