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By Fr. Joseph, MIC (Mar 7, 2009)
Readings: Deut 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48
"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Mt 5:48
Have you ever known a perfectionist — someone who has created unrealistic and unachievable expectations of the way things and people (especially themselves) should be? A perfectionist must have his office desk organized in an exact way, or the front lawn cut and trimmed in a precise manner. A perfectionist isn't happy unless everything is done to his specifications. But, in the real world, this rarely happens. And as today's Gospel tells us, that is not what Jesus means when He tells us we must be perfect.
So often, the day-to-day tasks of life can be overwhelming: work responsibilities, child-rearing, paying bills. There's no way that we, as human beings, can manage all these things perfectly. However, Jesus' challenging words today simplify things for us, and redirect our focus to His top priority: loving as He loves.
He commands us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. This is a tall order. Are there people in your life against whom you are holding a grudge or resentment? Have you ever felt unjustly persecuted by someone? Ever been a victim of gossip, or even worse, some form of abuse? This Scripture passage tells us that the only way to prove we are sons and daughters of the Father is by extending His love to those whom we perceive as unlovable.
Let's pray this Lenten season for the grace to love unconditionally. When our children have pushed every one of our buttons with disobedient or disrespectful behavior, let's diffuse the situation by disciplining them with love, rather than anger. Or when our spouse does something unloving, let's respond with empathy and kindness, instead of retaliating. Our goal here on earth is to mirror the perfect love of our Heavenly Father.
Father, thank You for loving me. I truly want to be an example of Your love to others. Help me, Lord, to love as You do. Amen.