7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A ON FEBRUARY 23, 2020 (R. 1: Leviticus 19: 1- 2, 17- 18; Psalm 103: 1- 4, 8, 10, 12- 13; R. 2: 1 Corinthians 3: 16- 23; Gospel: Matthew 5: 38- 48)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
BE PERFECT LIKE YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER
I have a great love for my mom and my dad. One thing that gives me a lot of joy is to hear people say to me that I look like my dad or that I look like my mom. But my dad and my mom are not perfect, and they are not even my real parents, they are only standing in for my real mom and dad. God is my real mom and dad. Just like it gives me so much joy to be told that I look like my earthly mom and dad, it will give me the perfect joy to be told that I look like my real mom and dad, who is God in heaven.
Today’s gospel passage says, “…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Here is what it means to be perfect as our Heavenly Father. The Greek word for “perfect” is “teleios.” The Greek idea of perfection is functional. It means that a thing is perfect if it fully realizes the purpose for which it was planned and designed and made. So, a human being is perfect if he/she realizes the purpose for which he/she was created and sent into the world. To find the purpose for which the human being was created, we go to Genesis 1: 26, which tells us that human being was created to be like God. Today’s Gospel tells us how God is, it tells us that God allows the sun to shine on both the good and the bad, and also allows the rain to fall on all without discrimination. So we become perfect when we become like God, and we become like God when we love both the likable and the unlikable.
According to G. K. Chesterton, “We are commanded to love our neighbors and our enemies; they are generally the same people.” People who are closest to us are sometimes the most difficult to love. When people who are not close to us hurt us, we may not feel it much, but when our spouses, brothers, sisters, parents, children, and other family members or friends hurt us, it pains us to our core, and it becomes more difficult to love them.
When Jesus asks us to love our enemies, it does not mean that we should keep exposing ourselves to them so that they can keep hurting us. We must protect ourselves from them, but at the same time, we must not pay evil with evil. We can use the evil that they do to us to prepare our way to heaven. In Africa, we say, “When you throw stones at a foolish person, the foolish person will throw the stones back at you. But when you throw stones at a wise person, the wise person will gather the stones and use them to build a mansion for himself/herself.
Jesus teaches us one way to love our enemies; he says we must pray for them. It is not possible to pray for someone and hate that person at the same time. This prayer is not the prayer we say for God to destroy our enemies. Jesus gives us an example on the cross when he says, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Abraham Lincoln once said, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” Remember that when you carry anger in your heart against your enemies, it is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
If we cannot love others for their sake, let us love them for our own sake and the love of God. And so, my dearly beloved in Christ, before I end this homily, I wish to tell you something very important: “I love you all.”