Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 5:38-48
Goals are important in our lives, otherwise our living is aimless. Aiming at a goal is vitally necessary if we're going to have any sense at all concerning the path we are taking as we journey through life. If you're downhill skiing and all you do is fix your eyes upon the tips of your skis, you will certainly fall. But if you fix your eyes on a point ahead, your body will make all the necessary mid-course corrections and you won't fall. Jesus gives us a goal today. "You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Some will say, "Well, what kind of a goal is that? Nobody can be equal to God anyway so what's the point?" How can we, mere mortals that we are, with all of our faults and failures, be as perfect as God is perfect?
"An eye for an eye" was law that limited the extent of retribution one could inflict upon another. It limited the repayment of evil for evil. At least it put limitations on physical carnage inflicted upon another. Loving one's neighbor was a law of somewhat expanded love, although it was still a limited love. Loving one's neighbor as one loves one's self has been limited all too often by our narrowing of the scope of the word "neighbor.” Just who is my neighbor, we ask?
That law is still very much in force today. "America for Americans" is the big slogan of our day. Keep the foreigners out is the real message. It's really so silly, isn't it? Just who are the real Americans anyway? Aren't they the American Indians who were here before our ancestors, European foreigners, arrived on these shores? And what about all those Chinese and Irish people who built the transcontinental railways that made our country such an economic power in the world? And what about the Africans that were shipped over here as slaves to give our economy the cheap labor, labor we used in order to amass vast wealth from the productivity that was sweated out of their backs? “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” has to do with unlimited love, unlimited caring, fully mature and fully developed caring and loving in all of our relationships with others. It has to do with the perfection found in our full maturation.
In measuring growth and personal development, the only growth that mattered to Jesus was a person's love. In other words, the measurement is growth in maturity. And the only standard of measurement that Jesus gives us is God's way of loving. And until we get there we have more to perfect within us.