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"Be Perfect" ...

Dear Parishioners,

He would give someone the shirt off his back. She would go the extra mile for anyone. They are off-the-wall generous. We often hear stories of people who give of themselves way beyond expectation, who help someone at personal expense, who spend the holidays feeding the hungry. We have so many ways of saying and doing this weekend’s Gospel. Although we all know people who are takers rather than givers, persons who are stingy and selfish, or individuals who are minimalists when it comes to relating to others, our first impulse should be to believe in the goodness and generosity of people.

Although we don’t always do what Jesus says in this Gospel – turn away from retaliation, give more than what is asked, love beyond what is easy – we do have a sense that what Jesus is asking of us is how we would want the community in which we live to be characterized.

In our treatment of one another – even those who are our enemies – Jesus (as Moses in the First Reading) challenges us to go beyond what is expected, beyond what we might think is reasonable, beyond what we might think is even achievable. We are to go beyond what is human to what is divine: “Be holy” as God is holy (First Reading) and to “be perfect” as God is perfect (Gospel). On our own, this is impossible! Only because of God’s love for us expressed in the life of Jesus who teaches us rightly, is this possible. Only when we experience God’s love for us first, is this possible.

Jesus commands us to keep the law in a radically different way. We are duty-bound as “children of the heavenly Father” to do more than simply what is mandated. We are to go beyond our natural expectation about keeping laws to embrace the divine excess with which God treats us. Acting toward others as God acts toward us transforms us to “be perfect” as God is perfect. This radical living of the law makes divine blessings, grace, and holiness to be real, visible, and at hand for us.

“Well, that will have to do for now.” How often in daily tasks isn’t this our cry? We have only a little bit of time to clean the house, so what we do will just have to do. We must write a sympathy card and can’t seem to find the right words for a young widow with children, and so we do our best and say that will just have to do. A “that-will-just-have-to-do” attitude is hardly the way of living to that which this Gospel challenges us! On the other hand, the Gospel examples seem way out of proportion to our ordinary responses and to the ordinary demands that daily living places upon us. Jesus is not asking us, however, to go looking for people without coats (although there may be plenty in our neighborhoods and cities) or to give our money away arbitrarily. What Jesus is asking us to do is look upon every other person, whether friend or foe, family member or stranger, as the beloved of God. Acting that is not done in dramatic ways but in simple everyday gestures of love, respect, and care for others is acting as being holy and perfect as God is.

May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!

~ Fr. Larry

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