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On forgiveness and being perfect with Our Lady – a reflection on the readings for the first Saturday of Lent (year a).

Our Lady readily observed the statues, commandments, and decrees of the Lord. He was her God, and she was his beloved daughter. She always walked in his ways and hearkened to his voice. Because of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s obedience, God raised her high in praise and renown and glory so that all generations will call her blessed for endless ages. To her we may apply the verses of Psalm 119 which we read in today’s Responsorial Psalm:

R. Blessed are they who will 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.

As a perfect disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, she excelled at keeping his commandments, especially the most difficult. And one of the most difficult commandments of our Lord, which he enjoined on his listeners in the course of his Sermon on the Mount, was to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is something unique to Christianity.

We aren’t called to just love those who love us. What is so exemplary about that? To love those who love us is easy to do, and everybody does that, even the worst of sinners like the tax collectors of Jesus’ day. No, we are called to go further and love our enemies, those who hate us and want to do us in. It’s not about settling for being good only but for being perfect, just as God the heavenly father is perfect. He is our father and we must imitate him as his children – – he causes the sun to rise on the bad and the good, and likewise causes rain to fall on the just and unjust. He does good to all, no matter how they have offended him. God is compassionate, merciful, and quick to forgive.

Among all those who have ever lived on earth, and of all who will ever live, the Blessed Virgin Mary – – the Immaculate Conception was the most perfect (of mere humans). She was perfect like her heavenly Father is perfect. At Calvary, when her Son was fastened with metal spikes to the limbs of a tree, Mary was there, standing. She witnessed the most horrific sight of cruel barbarians brutally torturing her Son, whom she knew to be her God. They, along with those who orchestrated the evil, murdered him outright. But ultimately, it was all of sinful humanity that crucified him. You and I were the cause, we crucified him by our sins. And what does sin consist of but our personal and collective disobedience towards God, our deliberate and utter failure to keep his commandments?

Jesus, the Son of God, before breathing his last, pronounced the words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He lived out what he wanted his disciples to live out. He forgave his enemies. Our Lady echoed his words in her heart. She forgave her enemies. The executioners of Jesus were her enemies, we were her enemies. Yet, she loved us just as her Son loved us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. What incredible love. By his blood we are reconciled to the Father and made children of God! At the foot of the cross, Jesus became our brother, and Mary became our mother. She forgave us and loved us with all her heart – – and continues to love us, with a love beyond the love of all mothers combined. And in this way, she was, and is, perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. As our mother, she fosters obedience in us and helps us to live the commandments of God. By means of Our Lady, so generously given to us, we can become perfect as God is perfect. There is really no excuse for forgiving our enemies. Because we have been forgiven, we ought to forgive one another.

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