God says, "Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Lv 19:2) and "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5: 48). God's imperative call to holiness and perfection in sacred scripture is addressed to us today. But this Sunday, Jesus' sermon on the Mount demands a tough act and spirit from us: love your enemies. How do we even make sense of that or begin to do that? How can I want good for someone who wishes me evil?
In his infinite Wisdom, God calls us to a lifestyle that distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Our uniqueness as Christians derives from reflecting the nature of our loving and merciful Father. Therefore, Jesus requires us to extend love and mercy to all, including those who hate us, as our heavenly Father does. To do this, we must put on the mind of Christ.
To become Christlike, we need a superabundance of grace. We can receive this by going on a retreat like I did last week. My five days of spiritual retreat allowed me to examine and restart my life. It was a time of prayer, meditation, and penance. We, as a church, get to do something similar beginning Wednesday. We will start our annual forty-day season of lent on Ash Wednesday. We will fix our hearts on "spiritual things" through a more intensified life of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As we observe holy lent this year, let us keep in our prayers all our catechumens and candidates preparing to receive or complete the sacraments of initiation. During Lent, the church prepares her children for holiness by renewing them in the sacraments of initiation.
I invite you to receive ashes of penance on Wednesday and participate in the Lenten fish dinner and the Stations of the Cross on Friday.
In Christ's Love,
Fr. Bernard, OP