_*“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven… And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:44-48)*_
Having been created by a perfect God, Jesus tells us today that we are called to perfection. You may wonder, what does it mean to be perfect? Does it mean becoming as strong and as powerful as God? Does it mean becoming sinless and infallible? Does it mean seeing visions of Angels?
In straightforward terms, Jesus defines perfection as the ability to love our enemies and treat those who persecute us with kindness. To be perfect is to be like God, who lets His rain fall on both good and evil.
To be perfect is to love your enemies and pray for them like Jesus Christ on the Cross, who asked for forgiveness from those who hung Him. Indeed, this is not something easy, but it is the essence of perfection.
Perfection is love that does not discriminate or condemn and can bring the sinner back on track. When Jesus was eating with the tax collectors and sinners, the holier-than-thou Pharisees felt Jesus was stepping out of line. Little did they realise that Jesus opened a door of salvation for them by showing love to sinners.
You may be a miracle worker, you can raise the dead to life and speak in all the world’s languages, but so long as you cannot love your enemies and your heart is so full of hatred for certain persons, you are not perfect. As St. Paul puts it:
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, understand all mysteries and knowledge, and have all faith, to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions and hand over my body so that I may boast but not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Meanwhile, in today’s first reading, St. Paul praises the churches of Macedonia for their generosity despite their extreme poverty. I have realised that when people are touched by the message and work of the minister, they are ready to go to any length to ensure they lack nothing. As such, the minister must have the attitude of St. Paul, being careful not to develop a sense of entitlement or exploit the people. Indeed, this would require trusting entirely in God’s providence.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, help me to grow in perfection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Bible Study: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, Ps. 146:2,5-9, Matthew 5:43-48)
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu