How often, after making a mistake, does someone say, “Nobody’s perfect”? Or perhaps, “I’m no saint”? As true as these statements may be, we cannot be complacent with our lack of perfection or holiness. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Through Moses, God says in our First Reading, “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” These are commands from the highest authority—God himself—and they cannot be ignored.
Aside from the fact that all human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26)—Saint Paul, in today’s Second Reading, gives us another basis for these imperatives: “You are the temple of God, and…the Spirit of God dwells in you…the temple of God, which you are, is holy”! This flows directly from our baptism into Christ.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm praises the kindness and mercy of God. Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel takes us beyond the demands of “retributive justice”: the concept of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This occurs three times in the Old Testament: in Exodus 21:24-25; Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. This is known as the lex talionis or the law of retaliation. In theory it is meant to limit retaliation for an injury by keeping it proportionate to the crime. However, when will the violence end? The newly-inflicted injury, even if it is a payback, invites another violent response. On the contrary Jesus’ teaching seeks to put an end to retaliation by calling for mercy and forgiveness instead of returning insult for injury. He calls us to live in a way that sets us apart from those who are “pagans”: to be good even to those who may not be good to us. The word of God today forces us to ask ourselves, “Can we, who have been forgiven much evil by a kind and merciful God, fail to forgive those who hurt us?” When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”—that “as” means “just as” or “to the extent that.” When we read it that way—“Forgive us our trespasses to the extent that we forgive those who trespass against us”—we see the obligation that asking for God’s forgiveness places upon us.
A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Catholic Schools Week. Providing a Catholic education is an important ministry of our parishes. Enrollment in our Catholic schools is now open for the 2017-18 school year. I know there are many reasons why parents may not choose to send their children to a Catholic school, but no one should make that choice believing it is unaffordable. Financial aid is available from our parishes and from the MACS system. The Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, also known as the “voucher program,” will award tuition payment for up to 50 new students in the MACS system next year. This includes St. Peter’s School in Tilden. There will be an informative meeting about available financial assistance and the voucher program and how to qualify this Sunday, February 19, after the 10:30 Mass in the Narthex of St. Charles Church. Please take a little time to check it out. You have nothing to lose!
Pray the Rosary this week for the families of our parishes, especially those who are experiencing any kind of turmoil. Pray for all participating in our Alpha series. As always pray for peace and the safety of military personnel serving abroad.
May God bless his people with peace.