Strive for Perfection

Matthew 5:43-48
1Kings 21:17-29 / Ps 51

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:48)

God loves even those whom we reject
For their perceived inequities;
He wants our love to be perfect
By discarding our prejudices.

(Jesus said,) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 43-48)

Reflection

If we do not have heaven in mind, we cannot strive for perfection. The distractions of this world prevent us from thinking about and preparing for the life beyond. Man seems to become short-sighted when he is well-off and feeling self-sufficient. He loses the wisdom to consider the inevitability that all power, prestige, position, and possessions are temporary, and can easily be taken away. In fact, these are the things that prevent us from seeking the perfection that our Lord Jesus is talking about. These are the things that alienate us from the love of God and other men.

One of the things I have been struggling with myself is my prejudice against people whose lifestyle I perceive to clash with my own set of values. Even though I believe that love is universal, some pre-conditioned biases die hard, and stand as obstacles in my faith journey towards achieving the true essence of love. I once sent this text message: ‘There must be no limitation as far as loving is possible; love only comes to perfection when it includes the unlovable.’ That means although love involves a choice (to love or not), once we choose to love, we have no choice but to include those whose company we would rather avoid. Especially a few who are so full of themselves that you always have to defer to them, and take care not to offend their sensitive feelings all the time. And that always takes some effort.

In the first reading, we read about King Ahab, who, because of the influence of his evil wife, Jezebel, was one of the most corrupt and evil kings of Israel. When Elijah the prophet confronted him with his sins and he repented, God immediately forgave him, and held back the punishment that he deserved.

Jesus wants His disciples to be different from the rest of the pack. It is not an exaggeration to say that we can be perfect if we believe His words in Mat.5:48. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can reflect the qualities of God, and by His grace, in time “become a new creation.” (2 Cor.5:17) We can never approach the perfection of God, of course, but if we constantly aspire for His divine qualities, like tolerance, forgiveness, patience and long suffering, and obey all His teachings, He will make us shine like a mirror to reflect His goodness to others.

Have mercy on me, O God, in Your goodness; in the greatness of Your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always. (Psalm 51)

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