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Don’t Forget to Love Jesus

First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“This day the LORD, your God,
commands you to observe these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you are making this agreement with the LORD:
he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice.
And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:
you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you;
and provided you keep all his commandments,
he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory
above all other nations he has made,
and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God,
as he promised.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8

R. (1b) Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who observe his decrees,
who seek him with all their heart.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
You have commanded that your precepts
be diligently kept.
Oh, that I might be firm in the ways
of keeping your statutes!
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
I will give you thanks with an upright heart,
when I have learned your just ordinances.
I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, 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 the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

NAB

feb 20

I wouldn’t say I am a rule breaker, but I’m most certainly a bender. I drive a little faster than I should, I sneak food into the movies, and I’ve smuggled lip gloss onto a plane when liquids were totally banned. It’s real Bonnie and Clyde stuff, I know.

But when it comes to my faith, I am such a stickler—scrupulous at times, even. Last year, I had a baby ON Ash Wednesday, and I hemmed and hawed over whether I was exempt from fasting that day (side note: that’s totally an exemption). Holy Day of Obligation? You better believe I am like one of those action heroes in the movies who is crawling on her belly through a firestorm with sweat on her brow letting nothing stop her from completing her mission.

And the irony of it is, I’m not even near perfect. I spend all of this time pontificating over the rules of the Church and how best to follow them, and I still slip and sin. Or, more commonly, I find convenient ways to justify the decisions I make.

And, I wouldn’t say wanting to be perfect in our faith is a bad thing. We are to observe the laws of the Church with all of our heart and soul. We are to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And “blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord.” But, like all things, if your heart is not in the right place, this desire can be an occasion of sin.

How often do I spend time flaunting Biblical knowledge and memorizing Church teachings on specific matters but forget to love Jesus? I look over the fact that these teachings and laws are designed to bring me closer to Christ. I gather information as if that is the end goal. But, it’s not. Jesus is the goal.

So we must remember that rules and teachings are tools to we must use to stay on the path to holiness. Use them for that purpose, and don’t forget to love Jesus.

Next time you learn something about the Church, ask yourself how you can use that information to love Jesus more.

Jenna Hines has teeny army of three children and is married to a bearded fellow named Mike. A former high school English teacher, she now stays at home where she blogs and runs a crafty embroidery business. You can find out more about her here

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