The Gospel according to Matthew (5:43-48)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, 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 the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus’ direction to His followers in today’s Gospel was very hard for them to hear, indeed. It’s really not easy for us to hear even today, either! Our natural inclination when others mistreat or speak ill of us is to strike back – to cause the one afflicting us to feel some of that same pain. It’s a very human response. That’s why Jesus’ words are such a challenge – they are not a human response; they are the response of our loving Creator for each of us! It is still hard, though.
We are called to love and be kind to others, whether or not they are kind to us or whether or not they act loving toward us. Today is my dad’s birthday. Now, those who knew my dad would know a few things about him: he was ornery, opinionated, grumpy and stubborn. Yes, all of those were true. But, the quality I especially recall now is his generosity. My dad, who came from a not-very-well-off family, had a heart of wanting to help others. I saw that many times through my growing-up years. He often gave more than he could really spare, but for him, it was natural to help. It was a wonderful example, all the more remarkable because my dad was not a religious man.
Today, we see so much dissension in the world. There are wars where people are literally killing each other. There are so many who are not given the dignity they deserve as members of God’s human family. There are so many who think that *their* way is the only way and to disagree is to be somehow less of a person. That’s not what God wishes for us, His children. But, how do we change the world? Each of us may not be able to change the world, but we can change the part of the world we can reach. Each of us can be kind and merciful and forgiving, regardless of who the other person may be.
We might think that can’t possibly make a difference. It’s just a small thing, right? But, if we all do that “small” thing, the impact won’t be “small” anymore. And, whether or not we see that “large” change or not, the world *will* be better, and who knows how that good act may pay forward to more kind acts? May the Lord help each of us to do that kindness and strive toward that “perfection” that Jesus talks about!
Action for the Day:
Be kind! Share a kind word with whomever you meet today. Forgive those who have hurt you, whether or not you think they “deserve” it. Brighten your corner of the world!
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