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“BE PERFECT AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT”

Father Francis's picture
Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

2 Cor. 8: 1-9 & Mt 5: 43-48

The Christians in Jerusalem needed help. Paul praised the generosity of the Macedonians who gave far beyond their means in response to his appeal. He mentioned this to the more wealthy Corinthians hoping to spur them to be just as generous. He reminded them of the example of Jesus, “He was rich, but He became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of His poverty,”

Nowhere does the radical newness of the Christian ethic stand out more clearly than in Christ’s simple phrase, “Love your enemies.” Why does Christ ask, even demand, of us such a radical form of love? Precisely because that is how God the Father loves each and every one of His sons and daughters, with no consideration of whether they are good or evil. “For He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” How much the world around us would change if those with whom we came into contact perceived in us a love like that of the Father of mercies! His love is absolutely without self-interest, continuing to love and pour forth His gifts even when He is not loved in return. That is why Christ calls us to a lofty and challenging ideal, but one that is capable of transforming lives. What joy could be greater than to be true sons and daughters of our heavenly Father?

Why does Jesus ask us to be perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect? The call to be ‘perfect’ can seem impossible if we consider our abilities. We find ourselves so weak, so damaged by sin. Was Jesus exaggerating when He said we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? Certainly not! He meant every 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 lack nothing 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 to follow in His ways. Do we want to grow in love for God and for our neighbour? Let us ask the Holy Spirit to change and transform us in the image of the Father that we may walk in the joy and freedom of the Gospel.

Why is Jesus almost relentless in insisting that we must be perfect - not just a human perfection but as our heavenly Father is perfect? He knows His Father’s original plan for us, from the dawn of creation. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis1:27). Jesus is well aware that sin has darkened the divine image within us and that His call to perfect charity is not possible for our fallen human nature. But He is equally aware that by the power of His own death and resurrection, through the new life of the Holy Spirit whom He will send, God’s original plan for us will be restored. There can be no more powerful motive for hope, even in the midst of our own failures in charity and our human weaknesses.

Thank you, Lord, for your radical message, the constant challenge of perfection You have placed before us. It never allows us to become complacent or self-satisfied. Help us to be better witnesses of Christian charity so that the world will believe in You.

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