February 23, 2020
Dear Believers in the Christ,
Today’s gospel, Matthew 5:38-48, challenges us to go the distance with God. Jesus invites us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. However, it is not about the perfection of a marathon runner or a craftsman perfecting a trade or art form. This perfection is not about making a mistake or wrong cut or using the wrong color or shading in a painting. The perfection Jesus is inviting us into is that of the Father’s mercy and compassion.
We need to be careful when we hear the word, “perfection” in the gospel. Especially as Americans, we tend to hear “perfection” and think we are to create a business plan or achieve an advanced degree in order to follow Jesus. We may think faith is on our shoulders by living the catechism to the letter of the law. We want to make lists and check them twice about how we learn and live, what the appropriate actions are, and how to succeed in the faith business without really trying. All of these approaches to Jesus are not what he means by being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus invites us into the perfection of the Father because that is where all mercy, forgiveness and tenderness rest. In God is the fullness of all life. God is wisdom and hope and generosity. The gospel reveals to us how to enter such a mystery. We offer what we have to others, a tunic or cloak or a listening ear. We go two miles instead of one. We give time, energy and attention even when we think we lost and out of steam. We give attention and hope even on days when we most need it ourselves.
The real training ground of perfection lies in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact this week, we begin the Lenten season, the real formation session of our baptismal lives. Lent is the place where we discern once again the hope for our real lives. Ash Wednesday begins the forty days of renewal and surrender to the person of Christ Jesus. Our baptismal commitments in Christ are renewed and given a deeper life as we commit ourselves to our real identity in Christ. Lent cleanses our consciences and opens new doors in our relationships with God and the Christian community. Through another Lent, we grow closer to becoming like God, the perfect source of love and wholeness.
Our perfection of faith allows us to forgive our enemies and offer peace to those who persecute us. Perfection of faith is forever surrendering to the love of God. We already belong to God in the incredible depths of our baptism. Our problem is that we think we live in the shallow end of the pool.
Please allow God’s love to flow through you as we enter this week into the gift of the Lenten season. We shall meet together when we renew our commitments once again during the Easter Vigil, where perfection will flow from the love God has for his people.
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Blessings to you,