As we continue through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Discourse, he tells us we are to be perfect, just as God is perfect. So now we can relax, because we know he cannot possibly be serious. No human is perfect, certainly not as perfect as God. So we really do not need to love our enemies or pray for those who persecute us. We do not need to treat the good and the bad equally and it is ok to take revenge on the unjust. They deserve what they get.
He had us worried though, if we were to love those who do not love us, we would not be able to hate them, or kill them, or demolish the infrastructure of their society and devastate their communities. If we had to greet everyone as our brother or sister we would have to welcome some horrible people and acknowledge that they have the right to autonomy and the pursuit of happiness, even if that looked very different from how we expressed those rights.
But all this rationalizing goes awry once we get a little further in the Gospels and we are told very graphically how Jesus dealt with people who disagreed with him and vowed to kill him. We see that he lives these words of 'love your enemy and pray for your persecutors truly.' He continued to love all of his disciples even though they betrayed him, denied him and fled as he was arrested. He welcomed all who hailed him as he entered Jerusalem triumphantly; he also welcomed all who approached him as he carried his cross to Calvary and accepted the ridicules of others, as he died a most agonizing death. “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34)).
We are called to do the same, but not alone. Just as Jesus was one with his Father we are called to be one with the LORD. The LORD will set us free, give us new ways of seeing and understanding, raise us out of our mediocrity, love and protect us (reread the last verses of our Psalm for today). Even in “severe tests of affliction,” as Paul discusses today in our first reading, we will have an abundance of joy and overflow with generosity. (verse 2)
Grace completes nature. If we allow ourselves to be enriched by grace, if we make ourselves totally available to God and to others (2 Cor 8:5), just as Jesus did, we too will become perfectly kind and merciful, just as God is perfectly kind and merciful to us.
Jesus truly meant for us to be perfect as God is perfect. This is our duty, our mission, the reason for our being created. This is being Christ-ian, Christ-like. This requires TRUST. Trust in God the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
Dear LORD when our interior weaknesses and temptations torment us, stay with us and be our strength; when mediocrity absorbs us, do not leave us; when the ascent to perfection makes us weary, whisper a word of help: TRUST! Help us to replace hate with love, mistrust with understanding, and indifference with solidarity. Help us to overcome all divisions among people, so that your love may become known and we may become one in perfect communion. Then filled with your joy and your peace we may proceed toward your kingdom. Amen!
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