Pastors reflection with Fr Carl

Are you Holy or Perfect?

Dear Parishioners,
Today’s scriptures focus on the great commandment of you shall love your neighbor as yourself; we hear God say this to Moses in the first reading. Love of neighbor, we realize, is one of two
fundamental principles of the entire law. Just as we did last week, we hear how Jesus broadens and deepens this ancient instruction. Returning to God’s holy mountain for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, let us return and learn from the master teacher just as his first disciples did two thousand years ago.

Our culture tends to value a show of strength and tends to assess our strength by the amount of force we
have. When someone hurts us, we are expected to fight back. We say that our anger is justified. We say that we should get even. Heroes like Gandhi and King modeled a different response: nonviolent resistance. Instead of fighting fire with fire when provoked, they turned the other cheek. They exhibited greater inner strength by courageously standing up not only to their violent opponents, but also to their own powerful emotions.

Anger and hatred can poison our hearts when they are left to fester. Some would say it is better to release
them whether in the form of a violent action, hurtful word, or some sort of revenge. However, releasing these emotions does not overcome them and can escalate the situation. Jesus calls his disciples – us – to cleanse our hearts of negative emotions. Last week we heard him tell us to release hatred for love. We are challenged to be counter-cultural.

“Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy,” the Lord told Moses. “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus told his disciples. How can we be holy or perfect? Isn’t it too much to ask anyone? Let us recall, though, that we are created in the image of God. Let us also recall that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, as Paul instructed Corinthia. God desires that we allow the Spirit within us to shine through our sinfulness. Humanity has sinned, and we have sinned, but we still are temples of the Spirit.

Jesus challenges us to go beyond the Old Testament of the letter of the law to the spirit of the law of love as God loves us, and we are to love one another and every one of our enemies. While this can be difficult, we have the spirit of God dwelling in us, and we need to surrender to the power of God’s Spirit of love to motivate us. As Matthew says: “But I say love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and good.”
Love and Peace,
Fr. Karl