Our first reading this week kind of sets the table for us. It comes from Leviticus which is a very important book from the Old Testament but a seldom-read book in our lectionary cycle. You could think of it as a book of rules for conduct by God’s people. But it is truly more than that. It is a handbook on holiness – a guide for living a life in accordance with God’s will for his people. The quoted section really summarizes the message of all of Leviticus. God calls us to holiness. Not holy behavior or practices, but holiness as in being like God himself. “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God am holy.” We are called to nothing less than likeness to God. In our second reading, St. Paul asks us the question – and reminds us, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?” We are a temple of God, a temple into which we place God every time we come to the altar and receive the Eucharist. God gave us the Eucharist so that we might take him in and become more like him. We are called to bring his light and his hope to the world.
From the moment Adam and Eve broke the trust, the relationship, and the unity with God, He has pursued mankind with a vengeance. In our gospel, Jesus is right in the middle of his sermon on the mount. It sets the foundation for all his teaching. It ties back to the law as given to Moses but builds upon it. It points to, and leads to, that moment in Chapter 22 of Matthew when the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a question about the greatest commandment. And Jesus says to them “love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. This is the greatest commandment and the first. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
His real message goes beyond the law. Simply following the letter of the law is not good enough. Obeying the commandments is not good enough. Our obedience must be authentic and pure. It must come from a place of love for one another, not from a place of fear. It is all about the progression, the journey, that each of us must travel in our return to holiness. Jesus sets the foundation for a fundamental mind shift that we are all called to. Following the law no longer suffices – “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” When Christ asks us to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect, the perfection he is talking about is the perfection of love. God loves his children unconditionally. He loves them not because they are good, but because He is good. We are called to this same type of love. A love inspired by the grace of God and our will to follow him completely. If we are not authentic in how we look at one another and how we care for one another then we have not done what Jesus asks of us. He knows we will stumble and fall along the way.
God loves you! He loves us so much he gave us the law – gave it to Moses. God loves us so much that when that didn’t work he gave us his son to come and take on our form and live with us and teach us and die for us on the cross that we might live. His son gave us the Holy Spirit to walk with us day in and day out. And just to be sure, he gave us himself in the Eucharist.
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Nothing like a high bar to shoot for!! But as Vincentians, this is exactly what we seek. To grow in holiness and to become perfect like our heavenly Father. How do we achieve that? By letting His light and His image shine through every word and action that we undertake. The question we should ask ourselves every day and after every visit – did I love as Jesus would have? Did I embrace “Father forgive them for they know not what they do?” Did I love as Jesus loved?
Lord Jesus, allow your light to shine through me. Help me to embrace all that you are. Help me to let go of my prejudices, my fears, and my imperfections that I might strive to be perfect as you are perfect! Grace me with patience, humility, zeal, gentleness and mercy that my every action and word may be infused with your Eucharistic love. We pray all of this in your name. Amen.