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Saturday, first week of Lent

February 27, 2010

Blessed Ember Saturday!

Eternal Father, turn our hearts to You.
By seeking Your Kingdom and loving one another,
may we become a people who worship You
in spirit and truth.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (you have chosen God and He has chosen you, for holiness)
Psalm 119:1-8 “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord”
+Matthew 5:43-48 (love your enemies as God loves His)

We’ve got big shoes to fill.

“In a word, you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” -Matthew 5:48

But that’s impossible!

If we rely on ourselves, yes it is. That’s why God stepped in to make it possible. “For man it is impossible; but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). He began by giving Israel the Law: “The Lord has chosen you…to keep all His commandments: and to make you higher than all nations which He has created to His own praise, and Name, and glory: that you may be a holy people of the Lord your God, as He has spoken” (Deuteronomy 26:18-19). If God’s people would keep God’s commandments, they would become perfect as their heavenly Father was perfect, raised high in praise and renown and glory above all the other nations God had made.

That, however, was just the first step. The commandments showed us the goal–they taught us to recognize sin (see Romans 7:7)–but they didn’t give us the power to keep them. No sooner would the people promise to keep the commandments than they would turn right around and break them (the golden calf is one example of many, see Exodus 24, 32). Even the great St. Paul could say, “I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; the desire to do right is there but not the power. What happens is that I do, not the good I will to do, but the evil I do not intend” (Romans 7:18-19). The power to do good would only come with the divine indwelling. “I have been crucified with Christ, and the life that I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is the life of faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)

“Christ is living in me” (Galatians 2:20). This is the key. When Christ lives in us, His power flows through us like the sap of the vine vivifying its branches (see John 15:5). His life gives us the ability to keep the commandments, to become perfect as God is perfect.

So how does Christ come to live in us? He comes to live in us as we are crucified with Him. “Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Through Baptism into His death we were buried with Him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live with a new life” (Romans 6:3-4). Baptism is the beginning. Christ’s life in us (also known as grace) must be nurtured: fed in Holy Communion, sealed and completed in Confirmation, healed and restored in Sacramental Confession. We order this divine life for specific service in Holy Orders or Matrimony and apply it to suffering in the Anointing of the Sick. Sacramentals (holy water, blessed objects, the rosary, etc.), private prayer and other religious practises are also sources of grace.

The whole process is rather like a dance with God. Our efforts and Christ’s indwelling build on each other. Grace gives us the ability to keep the commandments, to become perfect as God is perfect. We then have to put that ability into practise. God leads, not as someone moving away from us, but as someone moving with us, within us. When we follow His lead, we share in His perfection. When we don’t, we bump into things, step on people and fall down (we fail to love; we don’t keep the commandments). Either way, we’re active participants. The more we practise following God’s lead, the better we become, the more complete our share in His perfection becomes…leading to our ultimate perfection in Heaven (if we still have a way to go when we die, the process will be completed in Purgatory).

This is the perfection that will raise us high in praise and renown and glory.
This is the perfection God desires for us, the perfection He offers us.

May the divine indwelling lift us above what we could ever ask or imagine.

Yours in Christ,

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