Today is the fourth and final Sunday Gospel from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ description of what makes a good person, with its many teachings and examples about the moral life. In last week’s Gospel, we heard Jesus’ emphasis on going beyond the good behavior that is ordinarily expected by law or custom. Now we hear Jesus giving another challenging example of what that “going beyond” means. We are to love not only our neighbors, but also our enemies. We are to love not only our “brothers,” or those we consider like family, but to love even those who persecute us. This teaching expands on a teaching we heard last week: You have heard it said to your ancestors, “You shall not kill” … But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…”
Today’s Gospel ends with this command: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word “perfect” is not used in Hebrew Scripture. The Hebrew Scripture parallel is in our first reading today from Leviticus: “Be holy as I, the Lord your God, am holy.” “Perfect,” the Hebrew word “tam,” means the wholeness of God who cares for all people. So perhaps Matthew chose “perfect” to mean “do everything above” as he concluded his account of the Sermon on the Mount. Live it all, “the whole banana.”
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday this week. In preparation, perhaps you may wish to re-read the entire Sermon on the Mount again (Matthew, Chapter 5). With its many passages and examples, the Sermon on the Mount challenges us not to let any area of our lives be outside of God’s call for us to holiness. We are called to live every aspect of our lives with the committed, selfless, merciful and forgiving love of God. Holiness is wholeness.
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia; photo by Steve Hopson, www.stevehopson.com