YOU MUST BE PERFECT AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT.  As an indication of the kind of perfection in our heavenly Father we are to make our own, Jesus does not speak of God’s power, intelligence, or wisdom; rather, of his loving car. He points out that the heavenly Father provides even for those who disobey and neglect him. The Lord then sums up his meaning in the brief, challenging statement we have just heard in today’s Gospel: “My command to you is : love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”  Later in the Gospel account Saint Luke records that Jesus himself put this teaching into practice. When tormented unto death on the cross he was able to pray: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” (23:34) 

In presenting to us the Heavenly Father himself as the model for behavior that his followers are to apply as the proper guide for life, Jesus set a norm by which we are to judge our actions and attitudes.  If it is God himself whom we are to conform to, it is because we are destined to become his intimates, members of his closest circle. For such privileged sharing in a personal relationship we must be fashioned in our inmost self and in all the many aspects of our character after his own attitudes and dispositions. Unless we come to resemble Him sufficiently we cannot be at ease in his company. On the contrary, we would experience acute discomfort in proportion as we were exposed to him openly.

This charge to model our self after our Father in heaven gives direction and vitality to our whole striving in life. In all that we do, all our activities and interests, this task of drawing nearer to God by imitating his goodness, his mercy, his generosity as far as we can manage gives unity to our efforts and purpose to our strivings. Our prayer is to be a source of the insight and energy required to make of our daily doings effective in bring about such attitudes and dispositions throughout the gamut of our various involvements with persons and duties. Prayer functions to restructure our inner life by bringing us to keener awareness of God. Opening the heart to the loving presence of the Father, who, Jesus tells us, comes to make his dwelling with us if we keep the commandments that he revealed through the teaching and example of His beloved Son.

In this season of Lent we are urged to give greater time and energy to this kind of interior prayer that enters into the deep recesses of the inner self so as to find the place of God within. This is the chief work of the Christian at all seasons. Lenten observances of fasting, self-denying acts of charity, and earnest prayer have as their purpose to purify our heart so that we arrive at a love more worthy of the Lord Jesus who suffered and died that we might have the way open that brings us to the Father. May the grace of this Eucharistic sacrifice strengthen our purpose and stimulate us all to carry into effect day by day our Lord’s directive to strive to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.             

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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