Matthew 5:43-48 Reflection: Be Perfect

A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 5:43-48:

43 Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

6/14/2022 Gospel Reflection: Radical Love

What makes a follower of Jesus different from the rest of the world? The answer is in the word itself, follower. To follow means to be like the one being followed. In short, to be like Jesus Himself who loves people even unto His death. To follow Him is to do what He had done and what He had taught.

In the gospel reading above, Jesus is inviting His followers to be more loving than the others. In fact, He is calling them to be perfect! Oh no, that is impossible, you may say. Yes it is indeed impossible by human standard. Yet, Jesus cannot order His listeners to something if He knew that they cannot do it. With the power of the Holy Spirit, He knew His followers can do it.

The call to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors is a continuous one. It may not be easy at first but with constant reminder and prayer, our heart of stone will melt and be molded to be meek and humble like our Master’s heart.

To be perfect is to be like our heavenly Father who does not discriminate whom to bless. Jesus is asking us not also to discriminate whom to love and whom to greet. If we love only those who love us, then we are just like anyone else including those who do not believe in Jesus. We are different because we have radical love! It is radical in the sense that it does not expect reciprocation or even reward except for the promise of eternal life.

*****

In Leviticus 19:2, God said, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” It is reasonable to say that this verse in the Old Testament inspired Jesus to exhort his disciples to “Be Perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and “Be Merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36). Thus, to be perfect means to be holy and to be merciful.

We note that verse 48 that says “Be perfect” is the last verse of chapter 5 in the gospel of Saint Matthew. This verse could be the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. It means therefore that if we follow all the teachings in this chapter especially the Beatitudes, we can be perfect. Many of us would immediately say, it is hard. Yet, we must always remember that imperfection and perfection can not mix. Imperfect human beings cannot be united with a perfect God. Still, that is the call of Jesus – for us to be perfect. We just have to believe that it is possible to be perfect since Jesus cannot tell us to do something if He knew that it is impossible.

*****

How often have we heard of the sentence, ‘Nobody is perfect.”? We use it to excuse ourselves from mistakes. It has become a natural defense mechanism. When we are rebuked or reminded of our sins, we run to cover ourselves with this overused sentence, nobody is perfect. Why can’t we just be humble and admit our faults and weaknesses?

Perhaps what we so should always do is to ask this question, “As a follower of Jesus, what differentiate me from the rest?” The gospel reading above tells us exactly the answer, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is not to elevate ourselves and think that we are better or holier than others. In John 13:35, He made again this point. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The image of God is love and we were created in that image. Our life must reflect that image.

Indeed, Jesus expects the highest standard of morality from His disciples. That standard is no less than perfection. Light and darkness cannot mix. There is no middle ground. As long as we live in darkness, we cannot enter the heavenly kingdom. “So who can be saved?”, we ask. The question was already answered by Jesus in Matthew 19:26. He said, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

Prayer
Dear Jesus, you know everything about me. You know my all my sins, weaknesses as well as my desire to be as holy as I can. Try as I always do, I still remain a sinner. Yet, I believe in your words and I trust in your power. At this very moment, I ask for the grace to be holy in your sight. Amen.

Gospel Reading and Reflection
Gospel Reading and Reflection

One comment

  1. PATTERN YOURSELVES after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah (1Cor 11:1)
    Thanks Roy!! 💕

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