Saturday, March 7, 2009

Be Perfect, As Your Father In Heaven Is Perfect.

I:  Moses came down from the summit of Mount Sinai and spoke to the People:

This very day, the LORD your God has given you these rules and regulations.  Be careful, then, to live them out will all your heart and soul. 

This is the pact that the LORD is entering into with you:

1.  The LORD will be your God.

2.  a: You will heed his voice.
     b: You will obey his statutes, commandments, and decrees.
     c: You will live in the ways He will show to you.

This very day, the LORD has affirmed by this decree that you are his most precious treasure, a people entrusted to keep his commandments; a nation set far above all the other nations that He has created; a people worthy of praise, honor and glory.  You are a people who are holy to the LORD your God, who is holy, according to his promise.  (Deuteronomy 26:16-19)

II. Jesus said to his disciples:

You have heard it said: "Love your friends, and hate your enemies."  But I tell you:  Love your enemies; pray for those who seek to do your harm.  This is how your Father in Heaven acts:  He makes the sun shine on good and bad folks alike; He lets the rain fall on both the just and the unjust.

If you love only those who love you back, what good is that?  Don't the tax collectors do as much?  If you greet only those who return your greeting, what's so special about that?  Don't the pagans do likewise?   What I'm telling you is this:  Be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.  (Matthew 5:43-48)

Today's readings are all about God's will.  In the First Reading, the People of Israel are told that, if they keep God's commandments, He will bless them.  In the Gospel, Jesus gives a new definition to what it means to keep God's commandments.

It is not difficult to be good to those who are good to us.  That's human nature.  There is no reward for being friendly to people who return our friendship.  That's common sense.  But, if we listen to the LORD's command, and follow Jesus' instruction ...   If we are friendly to folks we don't even know ...  If we try and make friends with folk we don't think we'd get along with ...  ...

Jesus says:  If you follow my suggestion (actually, what He said is:  If you do as I command) you'll make friends, and you'll lose enemies.  Even better than that, if we not only love our neighbors, but reach out to our enemies (there are two types of enemies: folks we don't like, and folks who don't like us) we gain blessings from God our Father.  Doing what's right isn't always easy, but it will have its benefits, both in this life, and in the next. 

One last word:  You have heard me say, "God doesn't ask us to be perfect; only God Himself is perfect."  Matthew is not making a liar out of me.  Jesus is asking us to be as "perfect" as we can be, in practicing the one virtue which is the essence of today's gospel, both in Matthew and in Mark:  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

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