February 23, 2020
by Tom Lenz
Creighton University's Department of Pharmacy Practice
click here for photo and information about the writer

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary:79

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

Praying Ordinary Time

Preparing for Lent

As I read Matthew’s gospel for today I was met with mixed emotions. The further I read into it, the more energized I became. I felt like I was in the locker room at halftime during a big game and our Head Coach was rallying the team. It was as if our Head Coach was reminding us of the plays that we had all practiced with guidance and encouragement. The further I read, the more excited I became. I especially loved the second half of the reading when he is getting us to recognize that all people are the same. This is as important in today’s world as it has ever been. It speaks to racism, sexism, and every other -ism that drives disconnection within our society. It’s a clear message that everyone was created by God and at the core of each person is the sameness that must be recognized (as we get out there for the second half of the game). It is a great halftime speech to pump up the team.

But, then I read the last line, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” My heart kind-of sank a bit. “How can I be perfect?” I don’t think I can play the second half of the game without missing a shot, making a bad pass, or dropping the ball. It seems like a lot of pressure and I needed to sit with this for a bit to see if I could come to a better understanding.

As I thought about it, I think the meaning of “perfection” that we all think about in today’s culture is not the same as what Jesus is talking about it Matthew’s gospel. In our society today, we all feel the pressure of performing at a high level. We seem to almost expect a “no mistake” performance from our children in school and on the playing field, with our jobs, and our finances, and in our relationships. It seems to be an evolution of our modern way of living that has progressively gotten more intense throughout the last 200 years of history. But, this cannot be what Jesus meant. His “perfection” and our “perfection” have two different meanings. I think that Jesus is talking about living within our True-Self (as Thomas Merton talked about). Our True-Self is at the core of who we are and is rooted in love because it is a gift from God – a perfect gift from God. Each of us has a True-Self, but sometimes we act out of our false-self – the one that is based on ego. When we act out of our false-self we are easily offended and see others as different from us. This “othering” is what leads to the dualism that Jesus calls us to avoid in today’s gospel. But, if we act out of our True-Self, out of Love, then we see all people as having the same True-Self core, which is to say God. There is no other way to see another person then as the same, regardless of gender, race, age, color, religious belief, or political affiliation. The false-self is imperfect, but the True-Self is perfect. Great speech Coach!

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