Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones: Love and the Pilgrim
The Tate Gallery, London, 1896-97
Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Gospel: Mt 5:43-48
“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 (NRSV, Mt 5:43-44).”
Let us pray.
Father, it was as you led us out of slavery in Egypt that we realized for the first time how you are God and we are your people. We learned then of the great care you have for us and how you want us to care for one another. It was at Mount Sinai, as our deliverance continued that we focused our attention on how you would have us live. We continued on our journey after Mount Sinai convinced that we were your covenanted people bound to you by the Law. The Law found expression in precepts to guide our lives, precepts attributed to you.
As we continued on from Mount Sinai we came to understand ourselves as a pilgrim people journeying towards the land of promise. We looked into our past and recognized that the journey had begun long before even with our father Abraham as he left his home in Mesopotamia, surely even before him, right from the beginning. Then your son Jesus, the Word made flesh, awakened in us the understanding which the Word has always taught us in the depth of our being, if hitherto unacknowledged, that we are on pilgrimage not towards the land at all but towards you, Father, to the fullness of the eternal life that you share with us. It is our very nature to be a people on pilgrimage, even from this world into the world to come.
All along this journey, Father, through your Word you teach us. You teach us once and for all in every moment but that teaching becomes ever more real for us as we move forward on our journey. There are certain moments that seemed privileged for our understanding, moments such as at Mt. Sinai or when Jesus taught us on the holy mountain, but every single moment contains within it the possibility of real growth. It is as we grow in your life that we grow in our grasp of what you require of us.
Just as our pilgrimage is everlasting our realization of the meaning of love is continually challenged to increase. No one understanding of love is final as there is always the possibility of growth in comprehension.
If we mistakenly conclude, Lord, that we have finally reached the open clearing of definitive knowledge, that we have at last the answers that we seek, the clearing inevitably becomes obscured in darkness and we are caught in the brambles of confusion and error. It is then that Love herself who is your Holy Spirit, prompted by your ever-present Word, beckons us forward, offering us her hand to help us on our continuing pilgrimage.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.