Saturday in the First Week of Lent

by Adrienne Donald

abstract art

Today’s readings seem at first glance to reveal the tension between the Old and the New Testaments. Deuteronomy and Psalm 119 celebrate the Jews’ covenantal relationship with God: God makes them his chosen people; and they in turn obey his commandments. It is, however, with open-hearted joy that the Psalmist contemplates perfect obedience to God’s laws. The covenant is a proclamation of ecstatic devotion that trusts God to love his people. In Matthew, Jesus transposes the terms of devotion. It is we who are loved without judgment or limit, regardless of our righteousness or lack thereof. To be perfect as God is perfect is to turn the Psalmist’s unwavering love towards each other; to love everyone without limit or inhibition or judgment, to love all with unstinting forgiveness. The best commentary on this passage that I’ve found is from The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown…
…But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself…