Gospel Reading: Mt 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 only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
BE PERFECT, JUST AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT
Impossible! That is our first reaction to these words of Jesus. But yesterday’s Gospel and reflection lead logically to Jesus’ command to love even our enemies.
Still, the question arises: How can I be perfect as God is perfect? We know only too well that we are weak human beings. We often excuse ourselves when we have made a mistake or disappointed somebody, saying, “I am not perfect.”
And so we easily excuse our wrongdoings and sins. Jesus does not excuse sin, but he wants to draw us to a higher level.
So what does it mean to be perfect as God is perfect? The perfection of God lies in his boundless love and compassion. Jesus does not just preach a high ideal but practices it himself for us to imitate. Dying a cruel, shameful, painful death on the cross, he forgives those who have him brought to this terrible end.
Jesus does not lift up other people as an example of this but God himself: I am to live in such a way that my attitude toward others is the attitude God has shown toward me. How often has God forgiven me! How often have I experienced God’s infinite love and mercy! Imitating this, I slowly become “perfect,” just as the heavenly Father is perfect, and forgive even my enemies.
“The great danger in having enemies is not what they may do to us – it is what we do to ourselves as we allow harsh, bitter, angry reactions to develop” (David Hubbard).
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