“… So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
Jesus tells us today to aim for perfection because we serve a perfect God. Of course, children must resemble their father. Since God is perfect, we who claim to be His children must reflect God’s perfection in us.
And how do we do this? By loving our enemies, by praying for those who persecute us, by letting our rain (goodness) fall on both our friends and our foes alike, by letting our sun (warmth, love, concern) shine on both our friends and our foes, by greeting everyone including those who never respond to our greeting.
To be perfect is to have a heart so clean that it gives no room for hatred; a heart so sweet that it is never bitter at anyone; a heart so holy that it never contemplates evil against anyone. They say practice makes perfect. Begin with those you do not like. Change your feelings towards them, start thinking of them in very positive terms no longer as devils.
In today’s first reading, we hear the voice of Moses saying to us: “you have declared this day to walk in His ways, to keep His status and ordinances, to obey His voice and the Lord has declared that you are a people of His own possession, that He will set you high above all nations, you shall be a people holy to the Lord.”
What does it mean to be holy to the Lord? It is to be “set apart” that is, to be different from the rest of the world. If the people of the world believe strongly in the principle of “an eye for an eye”, we who are different should practice the opposite. When we are slapped on one cheek, we turn the other. This is the essence of holiness.
Is there even any reward for loving our enemies? Yes, we become free from bitterness, we sleep more peacefully at night, food even tastes better, our minds function better, we are able to receive new inspirations and as Moses says, God will set us high above all nations.
Let Go and Let God.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
Forgiveness is never an easy topic. Today, Jesus drums into us the importance of forgiving others who offend us. We should not even come to God to offer our gifts if our hearts are not completely reconciled with those who hurt us.
Now comes the big question: “How do I forgive?” Our first reading from the prophet Ezekiel gives us a clue on how God behaves. He does not relate with us according to our past! “If the wicked man turns away from his sins, he shall surely live. He shall not die… I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked… But when the righteous man turns away from righteousness and commits iniquity doing the same abominable things the wicked man does, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered.”
In other words, if we are to forgive, we must develop the habit of dying every moment to our past. Too often, the past looks more real than the present, but it remains past. If we don’t allow our past to pass, it continues to hunt our present. Like a driver who fixes his gaze only on the rear view mirror, we could cause accidents if we don’t look forward.
Has the past been painful? Then why are you still holding on to it? According to Elkhart Tolle, this is the insanity of humankind. We easily forget the good people do for us but we never forget the hurts people inflict on us. We hold on to our pain like children refusing to let go of some debris they picked up from the dustbin.
Jesus began today’s Gospel passage by saying “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Forgiving others therefore, could be said to be something of a higher calling. Learn it, grow daily in it. Start by letting go of little faults here and there. Just let go and let God.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to forgive. Amen.
Bible Study: Deuteronomy 26:16-19, Psalm 119 and Matthew 5:43-48) Ezekiel 18:21-28, Psalm 130 and Matthew 5:20-26).