Today Lisa Bright from the Pastoral Renewal team presents our Gospel reflection and reads from the Gospel of Matthew (5: 43-48) in which Jesus tells his followers ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in this way you will be children of your Father in heaven’.
Lisa says, in this gospel, Jesus continues to share what it means to love another in the image and likeness of God. We heard in the gospel a very clear message with no exception – love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. It’s easy to be nice to those people who are nice to you … but how do we respond when someone is unfriendly toward us?
Not only are we called to respond to this in our ‘human’ world, but Lisa says she is particularly attuned to this in our digital world. Scrolling through the internet and, on social media sites, sifting occasionally through the comments on posts, she is really saddened by some of the uncharitable and unloving comments she reads. It seems that the courtesies that we afford each other face-to-face do not extend to the digital space. And yet, Jesus’ words and message of this gospel are so applicable in that space.
For example, if Lisa sees a comment she doesn’t agree with or which has particularly angered or offended her, if she chooses to respond, how does she do this? What are the words to use? What is the tone to convey? As in a face-to-face situation, Lisa tries to see that the person behind a comment or post is also a person and is also loved by God. Our challenge in that situation is to see the face of God in the person behind the post.
The last line of today’s Gospel also captured Lisa’s attention today, “you must therefore be perfect just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” What a line! I am to be perfect as God is perfect. No pressure whatsoever!
Upon reading some commentaries on this bible passage, the word ‘perfect’ in today’s language doesn’t have the same meaning as in the original text. The word perfect in Matthew’s Gospel comes from the Greek word ‘Teleois’ which translates to ‘fully grown’ or ‘whole’. It insinuates maturity. When Lisa applies it to this gospel, she hears Jesus saying that we must be whole in God and mature in our life and faith. And this is achieved by accepting the invitation to live in the way that Jesus is sharing with us.
Lisa says, she doesn’t think it is something we will necessarily achieve in this life she knows we are always maturing and discovering more and more about life and faith. She hopes though, in that discovery and in trying to live it, she is doing so in a way that lives and breathes life in its wholeness as God asks of us – that is loving others – face to face and in the digital world – our friends and our enemies, and forgiving others especially when we find it difficult to forgive so as to reflect God’s unconditional love.
In closing, Lisa invites us to pray, ‘God, I pray that we can become whole in you, listening to your word, and living it through our lives. Amen’.