February 23, 2020
VII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
The passage of Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 5:38-48) that we read today concludes the part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus pronounces the well-known antitheses: “You have heard it said… but I say to you.” In this final section, Jesus gives us a key to what He has just uttered, a word that already resonated in the Sermon on the Mount: Father.
Jesus has spoken previously in verse 16 of the Father when, after the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks of His disciples as salt of the earth and light of the world and affirms that, whoever sees their works will give “glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In short, whoever sees the attitude of Jesus’ disciples, will not so much praise them, but the Father and will understand that the strength and the beauty of their gestures, of their words, do not come so much from themselves, as from the relationship with one who first loved them and is revealed in them.
In today’s passage, Jesus tells what the works of the Father are like, how the Father behaves. At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, in Jordan, the voice of the Father had already been heard. Presenting the Son, the Father said: “This is my Son, the beloved: in Him, I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17), and so we’ve immediately understood that the Father loves the Son.
We discover, today, that the Father’s love is not only for the Son but for everyone. He does not only love Jesus, He does not only love the people of the Covenant. He does not only love the good and the righteous. The Father, indeed, “make His sun shines on the and the good, and rains on the just and the unjust” (Mt: 5:44), He loves everyone equally, He is the Father of all.
The good news of the Gospel says that the Father loves thus and that we, being His children, can and are called to love in the same way. Not by our strength, but because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, the Spirit of the Father who makes us His children.
Therefore, we do not love because the law commands it; we do not love others because we must do so. We fulfill the commandments to love because we are children of the Father.
Jesus concludes the scriptural passage asking His own to be “perfect” (Mt:48).
Perfect is a word that’s a bit uncomfortable, in some ways a bit unpleasant, and reminds us of those flawless persons who do everything in a punctual, precise manner, who are never wrong.
The perfection intended by Jesus is another thing. Jesus, more than perfect, tells us to be whole, complete. And this means not being partial in relationships, building unity in one’s life, having the heart free from all forms of possession, which excludes and does not include. It does not speak, of the perfection of a person who carries out his/her duties exactly, but of a heart that knows how to love in an integral and free manner. The entire New Testaments insists on this.
In the Old Testament, “perfect, whole” was a ritual term; it referred to the sacrificial victim that must not have any defect. But in the New Testament, all this disappears because it’s no longer about offering sacrifices but loving.
And the perfection is that of those who give everything of themselves, without calculations, without seeking personal gain, without fear of losing, by offering the life for the other. “I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me” (Jn 17:23), and that is Christian perfection.
No law can demand or require it. It can only be the need of the heart of the one who received the gift of life first, in the one who received the Spirit of a son.