Becoming Perfect

20 June 2006: Tuesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4, 43-48: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

The Gospel today presents to us a hard principle. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father who is in heaven … you must be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In other words, the mark of a child of God is our love our enemies. First, we look at God. By having the sun shine for all --- whether good or bad --- God shows His invincible goodness. He sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous, friend or foe. And thus, if we are to follow our Father’s love for them, then we too have to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. By having such goodness, we will be perfect as the Father is perfect.

But we know we cannot love as God loves --- perfect and unconditional. We know we are not God. Is Jesus giving us a principle that is unreachable to us? The Greek word for perfect is teleios used not in the philosophical abstract way, but functionally. The noun telos to which it is derived means purpose or goal. Each thing has a telos: a chair becomes teleios if it is used for sitting; a hammer becomes teleios if it is used to drive a nail.

Thus any object for that matter is perfect if it does or is used exactly for the purpose to which it was created. We are teleios if we are like God. Genesis tells us that we are created in the image and likeness of God. I believe, Jesus is giving us a goal, a telos. With a goal in mind, we are given guidance and direction. If we keep our eyes focused on the goal, no matter what way we use to get there, we still arrive at our destination. To move towards our telos is already being teleios. The person who tries to love much as Jesus loves is perfect: like our saints, our heroes, or even our parents and friends who have given their lives for us. To strive to forgive as God forgives and love as God loves already makes us move towards perfection as New Testament understands it. We are already teleios.

*Jesuit friends: Fr. Lester Maramara SJ, Mads Tumbali nSJ, and Jason Dy SJ.

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