Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 19, 2017)

Early in the history of His people, God summoned them to pattern their lives on His: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Jesus repeats that summons to us in the Gospel: “You must be perfected as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In order to make that seemingly impossible summons possible, the Spirit of God dwells in us.

Today’s Scriptures focus on how we become perfected through the way we act toward one another. The pattern that Jesus offers us is truthfulness, compassion and non-violence. When we recognize and honor ourselves as temples of God and respect others as His temple, then our words and actions will mirror our belief. The wisdom behind the way we choose to act comes from the Spirit dwelling in us. He will lead us to act in ways that the world around us may consider foolish.

Acting as Jesus would act calls us to greatness of heart. If loving as God loves is our model, then we must be willing to risk not returning violence for violence done to us. When we choose to love as God loves, we risk being taken advantage of and even getting hurt. The alternative - to be suspicious, stingy or cynical - is not worthy of anyone who possesses the Spirit of God.

Jesus summons us to the perfection of love: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” There’s no great challenge in loving those who love us. The real proof that we understand that we are children of God comes when we are willing to love those who do not love us in return, especially those who harm us. There is heroism involved in choosing to love each and every person who crosses our path.

The challenge that Jesus offers us is accompanied by the gift of His presence in us through the Spirit, making it possible for us to live out his challenge. Allowing Jesus to live in us and love through us more and more each day makes the seemingly impossible possible.

You and I can be perfected, as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS, is the Executive Director of the De Sales Spirituality Center.