Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary time
(II Corinthians 8:1-9; Matthew 5:43-48)
A long time ago a protégé of Reinhold Niebuhr commented on the difference between him and the great twentieth-century American theologian. He said that where Niebuhr strove for perfection, he just wanted “to be a little bit better.” The statement indicates the faulty human condition at the heart of today’s gospel passage. It also helps clarify what Jesus means by “perfection.”
Jesus reverses the wisdom of the ages when he tells his followers that they must love their enemies. They may not hate them, but pride makes them want to appear as better than all rivals. Jesus demands that such competition cease. He deems perfection not in achieving “all A’s” or in besting all opponents but in loving those who would do one harm. This kind of love, he says, makes one truly like God, the Father.
We should not underestimate the great challenge in loving one who would do us wrong. Achieving perfect grades or a perfect score might be a neurotic pursuit, but loving an enemy is no easy task. It takes prayer as much as effort. We pray for the spirit to makes us so meek that our predominant goal is always to please our heavenly Father.