( A commentary on Matthew 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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5: 43-48)
This Gospel is all about healing? It is? Yes.
So, let’s start with a focus on some key attributes.
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Sometimes we can be thrown off by the word “perfect” and think that Jesus is calling us to an unachievable standard, because after all, none of us is perfect, none of us will ever be perfect, and therefore if God is calling us never to make a mistake, then he’s calling us to something beyond human capacity.
When we are called to be “perfect,” we need to understand the Aramaic meaning of the word.
The original meaning of “perfect” in Aramaic is “completeness” or “wholeness – not lacking in what is essential.” God gives us every good gift in Jesus Christ so that we may not lack anything we need to do his will and to live as his sons and daughters (2 Peter 1:3). He knows our weakness and sinfulness better than we do. And he assures us of his love, mercy, and grace so that we can be whole.
Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.
We really can’t become children of God until we start behaving like God. We can’t experience the interior revolution to which Jesus is calling us and unless we seek to act as his children, to behave like Jesus who shows us how to live as a Son or Daughter of God.
Just as God the Father loves everyone and does good to everyone, including those who curse him, including those who make themselves his enemy through sin and an evil life, Jesus calls us to do the same, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to walk the second mile, to give our cloak as well as our tunic, to give generously to all those who need to borrow.
We’re called to love like God loves us. On the other hand, we cannot be like God the Father when we don’t love others enough to forgive them when they hurt us, to pray for them when they persecute us, to sacrifice for them when they’re in need, to avoid all vengeance against them when they strike us on our cheek or otherwise hurt or offend us.
It’s in the praying for those who have hurt us that the healing begins. After all, how can you hate someone when you are praying for that person?
Jesus is summoning us to order our lives to the same purpose and same goal as God the Father, to mature to full stature, to achieve the end for which we were made, which is to be fully in the image and likeness of God, to be holy as God is holy, to love like God loves, to be merciful as he is merciful, to behave truly as children of our Father.
I am not there yet but I am going to keep on trying.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart ablaze with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone.”
To become whole, we need to follow Jesus Christ not just partially, not just at a distance, not just picking-and-choosing the parts of his teaching that don’t require a radical change on our part, but up close, fully, totally. The whole Sermon on the Mount, as we see in the Beatitudes with which Jesus begins it, is meant to lead us to true happiness, to true spiritual perfection as sons and daughters of God. But we need to grasp that God’s plan for our life is far more than our becoming merely “good people” like the pagans he describes who love those who love them and who do good to those who are good to them. God’s plans for us is for us to become fully his children by behaving like him, by loving like him. And to help us in this task, he gives us himself.