Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Lectionary: 229

...you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God, as he promised.”

Jesus' words holy (in Saint Luke's version) and perfect (in Saint Matthew's) have been troublesome in my experience, and probably since the day he uttered whichever he said.

I grew up trying to be Perfect in order to please the parents, teachers, and bigger kids on the playground. In the end, somewhere after I developed OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), I realized these authorities were implacable! They weren't happy to start with and there was nothing this kid could do to please them. 

To make matters worse, I was supposed to please a God who, by all accounts, wasn't very happy. 

It didn't help that (I was told) Our Unhappy God might be pleased by certain impossible deeds and by avoiding certain unavoidable thoughts, words and deeds. Somewhere in college, attitudes was added to that relentless list. There's no room for bad attitudes in God's kingdom.  

Talk about the weight of the universe! 

The ultimate burden was ordination to the priesthood, when I should please -- or at least not displease -- everyone who appeared in church or walked down the street, who drove on the highway or walked on the sidewalk. 

No wonder I had a nervous breakdown in 1981. Or was it 1978? There were several; not all have been tabulated. 

My only hope was that I might slip in under God's notice among the crowd of Catholics and Christians with whom I associated. 

Actually, that's not a bad plan. 

When Jesus says "You shall be holy (perfect)" he is speaking to the Church, to the community of believers; those who have been washed in the water that flowed from his side; who have eaten his flesh, drank his blood and drawn his breath. This is the community that also acknowledges its sins corporate and individual; and receives time and again assurances of his tender mercy. 

This is the community which stands with Mary Immaculate at the foot of the cross, and overhears his words to her, "Behold your children!" even as we are told, "Behold your mother." 

Finally, I learned to accept the healing love of my parents, family, friars, friends, fellow Catholics, and colleagues along with the consoling touches, smells, tastes, sights and sounds of God's good earth. I also learned to forgive these far-from-perfect people. (If I had ever found a perfect church it would not have been perfect after I joined it.)

We are holy in God's sight -- and beautiful and delightful -- because the Father has looked upon us through the gentle eyes of our brother Jesus. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.