Reflection on the Daily Readings for 6/16/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM

Today’s Readings

Scripture: Tue. of 3 week. II Cor. 8:1-9. Psalm 146:2.5-6.7.8-9. Matthew
5:43-48. Lectionary # 366:

Jesus asks us to have unconditional love for all peoples. This love is
called AGAPE  in the New Testament and is one of the main themes in John's
lofty Gospel.  Here in Matthew we see it appear in Jesus' Sermon on the
Mount and is the key to understanding what Jesus says about the call to
perfection.  Unconditional love is totally selfless and is oriented toward
the good of the other for the sake of the other.  Even our enemies are to
be loved and only AGAPE  love can love one's enemies.  It is a spiritual
love that encompasses forgiving, forgetting, and still patiently loving
those whom we consider enemies.  In the history of the Church we know that
many of the saints possessed such love.  We can think even of modern day
saints like Mother Theresa and Theresa of Lisieux.  Early times gave us St.
Ignatius of Antioch and St. Justin martyrs.  The Marianist martyrs of Spain
and the Austrian Jakob Gapp testified to such love by the giving of their
lives to the enemy through martyrdom.

The Sermon on the Mount is not an impossible ideal but it is a challenging
call to be like they were for Christ. We are to be "perfect" as God is
perfect! (Matthew 5:48).  The word used for perfect is associated with
obtaining our goal. In this case it would be union with God in the
afterlife; here on earth it would be our striving to be other Christs in a
world of terrorism, war, and greed. Yet, some Christians and other
believers from other religions do obtain this goal.  Jesus is there
especially for us Christians and he calls us to live out our lives with
such love that results in "perfection."  Jesus calls us to realize we are
created by God in the image and likeness of God.  That is the start toward
the perfection of agape love. Jesus is not moralizing about this love; he
is telling us that is what we are called to be and to do for the sake of
God's kingdom.

We become more like Christ by prayer, by receiving the sacraments, by being
open to God's surpirses of grace each day and by carefully interiorizing
the Scriptures which call us to holiness, even to perfection.  We are to
"seek the things of God and not of human desires."  Today we can start in
motion this type of love by purifying our motives in relationships and by
seeking the love that Jesus  has already put within us by means of his
creative and redeeming love.

Matthew 19:21 is the only other passage where perfection is associated with
agape love.  Karl Barth calls this love a complete dedication to God.  The
context is that of the young man who did keep the commandments and was
hoping to do much more.  "The  young man said to him, "I have done all
these things, what do I need to do further?" Jesus told him," If you seek
perfection, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor. You will then
have treasure in heaven. Afterward, come back and follow me." (Matthew
19:20-22). Amen.