Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.

This command is quite astonishing as it calls us to make our lives the very quality that identifies God as God; that is “HOLINESS”. It is echoed in today’s gospel text: “You must therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The responsorial psalm is a unified prayer of praise and thanksgiving instructing us to strive towards the goodness of the Lord. The psalmist reminds us that as we come to our place of prayer, do we allow ourselves as long as we need simply to become still and quiet so as to be filled with the graces our Father wants to give us so that we can grow in holiness.

Are you not aware that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

This is to be understood as the community of Christians, or of the church, as being the place where God dwells on the earth. The idea is derived from the mode of speaking among the Jews, where they are said often in the Old Testament to be the temple and the habitation of God. An indirect example is probably to the fact that God dwelt by a visible symbol – “the Shechinah” – in the temple, and that His abode was there. As He dwelt there among the Jews; as He had there a temple – a dwelling place, so he dwells among Christians. they are His temple, the place of His abode. His residence is with them; and He is in their midst. The apostle Paul mentions this several times in his letters: 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22.

Of all the beautiful metaphors of God’s church such as the bride of Christ, the vineyard of the Lord, the household of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, the spiritual body of Christ, and the flock of Christ, none is more beautiful or intriguing than “The Temple of God.”

Taking this verse further, it is a reminder that we are individually the temple of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in us individually, then we must note that the Holy Spirit will be missing in this one person in the community and the community is lesser for this one person.

My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.

We should not look at “an eye for an eye” as an inordinately strict punishment as the world sees it. The code that comes from King Hammurabi who wrote it in 1754 was meant to limit acts of revenge by making sure the punishment is not excessive but fits the crime.

However, Jesus asks his followers to take a different approach by resisting retaliation altogether. The response to a stronger person who slaps us on the cheek, takes us to court, or demands a service of us is not to resist. Similarly, for a weaker person, such as a beggar or borrower, we are to give him or her what he or she asks for. Those who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven are to go beyond the way the world usually works and serve God’s kingdom here on earth.

The other difficult demand of those who are called to the kingdom is to embrace the enemy. There is no command in the Old Testament to hate individuals in a personal or vindictive way. However there is a religious stance that calls one to hate evil and to distance oneself from those who participate in evil.

In contrast, Matthew emphasizes that love of God and love of neighbor are the fundamental commands on which all else depend. Since our Father’s love is unconditional, we are to strive to love as Father does.

Matthew uses the Greek word telos, which is probably better translated here as “complete”. We are not to be perfect as in doing everything correctly, that is, as in being absolutely morally correct. We are to be perfect as in striving to reach the completeness we are called to in the Kingdom of Heaven. Attempting to love our enemies is part of striving for that completeness.

The key is in the final verse. We are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.


In His Service,