Fr. Michael Phillippino
This weekend our readings continue with Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Christ continues to raise the bar to an impossible height. He calls us to be holy as he is holy (Lv. 19:1), to offer no resistance to injury, to love our enemy and finally to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48).
I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel like a little child who tries to jump up to those horizontal ladders they used to have in the playgrounds. I would be totally frustrated trying to reach the bars until my father came along and lifted me up so I could grab hold of the bar and swing my way across like a monkey.
And, in fact, that is what we must ask our Lord to do for us as St. Augustine used to pray, “Lord, grant me what you command me.” We cannot live the life he calls us to live without the help of the Holy Spirit. As our Catholic Catechism teaches us in a section on the Our Father, commenting on the line: “as we forgiven those who trespass against us…”
2482 This “as” is not complete in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”139 It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Jesus Christ.140 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave” us.141
2843 Thus the Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end,142 become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord’s teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”143 It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart”, that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense’ but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.
2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies144, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God’s compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.145
May the Lord lift you all up into His merciful embrace.
Fr. Michael Phillippino