I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:44-45
Sometimes a line from scripture hits me sideways and makes me puzzle over it for days. There is one verse that gets me every time I hear it. It’s one of those lines that I can't quite figure out what to do with or how to apply to daily life. God is loving and merciful and compassionate and capable of bringing great good out of unspeakable tragedy so why would a Father with all those amazing characteristics slap us with a line like, “be perfect as your Father is perfect.” What is that nonsense all about I’ve asked myself every time I’ve heard that line. Then came an insight!
Here are the words I read Saturday that made so much sense and I’m borrowing them from the Magnificat prayer book.
Being perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect means loving those who do not love you. We can do so because God has made us to be a people peculiarly his own. When we give God’s love to those who deserve it least, God raises us high in praise and renown and glory. Love shared makes us a sacred people.
Ok, so loving those who don’t love us and loving the hard to love and being patient, kind, merciful and understanding of those who push our buttons is the answer? It would seem so and it makes so much sense because his greatest commandment calls us simply to love. He isn’t asking me to build a hospital or begin an orphanage or do mission work in a Christian hating country, he’s asking me to love my neighbor…ALL of them. He even promises to give us the grace to do it. If we ask, he will open our heart and stretch it’s loving capacity far past the puny human limits we think it’s capable of. Plus, as a gigantic bonus for loving the hard to love, he slathers us with more grace, glory and love. So in a nutshell; I ask him to help me love, he gives me a super dose of love to give away, and then he blesses me for letting him do the work in my life…and that’s how I become “perfect” as he is “perfect” and that’s how I grow in holiness and gain eternal life? When you lay it all out like that, it seems too good to be true but then again, that is God isn’t it!
Two other things I realized as I’ve wrestled around with this verse, this perfection he calls us to is not a goal to be checked off, it’s a process to be lived. This process comes with success and failure all along the way and that is expected by the Father who loves us. We simply can never check the box and say LOVE, check I’ve done that. I think of that in terms of my own marriage and motherhood because I’d never look at Dave or the kids and think, “Yup, I love you enough, all set.” It’s a process that grows and deepens over time and boy am I thankful for that. The second thing is that this perfection scripture speaks of is not completely fulfilled here on earth. The perfection comes to completion at the end of our days. It’s a journey or a process not a task to cross off the list.
The perfection is in the love. I can go to mass every day and say 43 rosaries a day and donate money to cause after cause but if I don’t love those who don’t love me and the hard to love and if I don’t spend every day trying to grow in humility and holiness through my loving of others rather than self I’m not doing it right. Quite frankly, his way; his request, it so much simpler. If this strikes a cord with you, I have two ideas to help make this a part of your Lent. First, several times a day silently pray, Jesus, help me love the way you love. Second, spend some time each day with this little prayer, also from the Magnificat and me.
For those who have hurt or harmed us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who dislike us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who look down on us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who refuse to speak to us. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who test our patience and make our life difficult. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who believe differently and make us angry. Grant them every blessing Lord.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the two options above and put it in place this week.
Blessings on your day!
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