I discovered a new-to-me blogger this weekend and adore her series on "Momily Mondays" - thank you Regina! This week begins the seven posts in seven days challenge too.
In Mansfield Park, Mary Crawford essentially accuses Fanny Price of causing her brother and Maria's immoral behavior by not marrying him. But the first reading from Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 rejects this argument: "You shall not bear hatred against your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
There is always reason to hate or hold grudges or take revenge, but to love? There is no reason to love. Still, love is our calling. Love is our purpose, our meaning, our work in this life. To be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, we must love above all. When our parents irritate us, we must love them for who they are and the good they have done and are. When our friends hurt us, we may have to choose to separate ourselves from them, and we must love them, and wish them well on this life's journey. When we are passed over and lonely and jealous, we must love people we dislike because they have what we do not - and be grateful for showing us that our dreams are possible.
Psalm 103 sings of the Lord blessing us, pardoning us, healing us, and redeeming us. "Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness./ Not according to our sins does he deal with us, not does he requite us according to our crimes." His compassion comes from his love of us, a love so overpowering, we cannot imagine its infinity.
St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (3:16-23) reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit of God dwells within us. It is for this very reason that we cannot cultivate hate, or allow our inner demons of vice occupy our thoughts and feelings for too long. Does it not bring you joy to think that we Christians belong to God? We can never be lonely: God is with us. We cannot be jealous or covet: with God, we have enough - we are enough.
The world will never be satisfied - you'll never be pretty enough, good enough, active enough, popular enough, loved enough, sexed enough, or just enough. The world is fixated on superlatives - the best, the top, the pinnacle. But we believe that the source and summit of the Christian life is the Eucharist: Jesus is present, Jesus is with us.
And part of the enough lies from the Devil (sin personified) is to point out your sins, point out your failings; this is because he is sadistic. He derives pleasure from our pain. He squeezes the lemon into the wound. He cuts deeper, pushes harder, whispers, touches lightly to hint at thoughts you try to banish. And banish you should, and can, and need to - because they are not you. You are good. You are worthy. You are enough. You are created in God's own image, and loved beyond belief. You are cherished.
Matthew 5:38 tells us clearly Jesus' instructions on these points: we do not fight evil with more evil. We give up this world for the next. Moreover, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust."
Being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect does not mean we are perfect - it means we love perfectly: we love all. This is what God does - he loves each and everyone of us. He suffered death for each of us, and we must never pretend otherwise. Our grief of accepting such a gift means that we must live our lives to the fullest, and not accept the lies that we are not worth God'd death on the cross. We must strive to believe it and live up to its promises each day.