Saturday of the first week in Lent

And the Lord has today declared you to be his people, a treasured possession, as he promised you, and you should keep all his commandments.
                                                                           Deuteronomy 26: 18
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous…
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
                                                                            Matthew 5
Abba Poemen said, “A monk does not complain of his lot, a monk does not return evil for evil, a monk is not angry.”
*        *        *
The Jerusalem Bible refers to Israel, at the making of the covenant, as a people “peculiarly” God’s own. Such ambiguity in the options for translation is astounding: “treasured possession” or “peculiarly [God’s own]”?
I think each possible rendering offers us some insight into the relationship between God and God’s people. The idea of a treasured possession points to God’s unfailing love for God’s people. As the reading from yesterday so clearly testified, God’s extravagant forgiveness meets each of us on the road home from the far country. As the people grafted not Abraham’s family tree, we are God’s “treasured possession.” the idea of a people “peculiarly [God’s] own” points to the identity of the people of God in the world. Israel follows a different set of customs and obeys different laws from those of the Gentiles. So also, Jesus suggests, Christians operate differently in the world. Doing good to those who do good to you is the norm; doing good to those who do you harm or seek to do you harm runs counter to all expectation. But being God’s peculiar people involves practices of humility and love that mirror God rather than copying the world.

To be perfect is to love as God loves, to allow God’s way of seeing “enemies” and God’s way of responding to evil to become our own.

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