Homilette for Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Mt 5:43-48)

Jesus’ command in the gospel, “’...be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect’” distresses many Christians. They worry that they will have to conduct a neurotic, illusive program to change their lives. Better, they may think, to remain simul iustus et peccator, Martin Luther’s expression to describe the Christian as justified while remaining sinful. “God loves us as we are,” they may say to excuse their unwillingness to change.

We like to think of Jesus as accommodating of our sins and foibles. The gospel stories of Jesus’ eating with prostitutes and tax collectors reassure that he will accept us with our less grievous faults. And surely he does! He does not spurn us because of weakness for pornography, displays of bad temper, or the like. But at the same time he calls us to change our sinful ways. At Baptism or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation he even provides us the power to reform.

Yet we should not be surprised if our transformation is gradual. Human nature, after all, is notoriously habitual. Yet with constant, determined effort we can overcome the meanest of tendencies. In this season when Olympic athletes are closing in on perfection, we might consider ourselves in similar training. In our case, of course, we seek mastery of behavior which wins the prize of a permanent place in the Father’s kingdom.