LIGHT TO ALL THE NATIONS
Loving our enemies may not be the most natural thing for you and me, and in the world it is a most unexpected thing. Yet it embodies the love of Jesus who, St. Paul says, died for us while we were enemies.
Jesus said in today's Gospel, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44.) There seems to be no end to the demands! We'd like some limits. We'd like to draw the line. Our preference is captured when we hear the familiar expression, the "deserving" poor. Jesus Christ says that our heavenly Father does not distinguish between deserving and undeserving; the Father "makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Matt 5:45.) Now we are called to do in like manner. That's how we share the "perfection" of the Father---by not distinguishing or discriminating.
We distinguish when we do good only to those whom we love and feel comfortable with and excluding doing good to those we might not like, love or feel comfortable with. Now understanding this takes a lot of prayer, and we can't do it without the help of God.
We need to remember that God's chosen people were meant to be a light to all nations and peoples. Today's Gospel continues Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Earlier in the sermon He says to His followers, "You are the light of the world. The challenging life that Jesus describes today is how we, as God's people, live as light in a world made dark by favoritism, prejudice, and hatred of others. Loving our enemies may not be the most natural thing for you and me, and in the world it is a most unexpected thing. Yet it embodies the love of Jesus who, St. Paul says, died for us while we were enemies. The Sermon on the Mount isn't simply a description of how to live. In it we find the living, dying, and rising love of the Jesus who would make us a blessing for all people.
In the Responsorial Psalm we acclaim: Praise the Lord, my soul! Who keeps faith, secures justice and gives to His poor children. For He raises, loves and protects us.
In the conclusion of today's Gospel reading Jesus exhorts us: "So be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect." The original meaning of "perfect" in Aramaic is "completeness" or "wholeness" - not lacking in what is essential. That which is needed to make us whole or complete is charity. Only in charity can we become like Jesus, who is a Light to all the nations!