True freedom and the impossible
|Caravaggio's "The Crowning With Thorns"|
Our Lord commands us today at Mass (Mt 5:43-48) to do two things which are impossible or nearly impossible for us to do naturally speaking: to love our enemies and persecutors, and to be perfect as the Father is perfect.
To follow Christ means that we must grow to love as Christ loves, and to forgive as He forgives, forgiving those who cause us hurt or wrong in any way. As we gaze at the crucifix and think of our Lord’s death on the cross for our salvation, let us remember that Christ died for every individual while they were still sinners (Rom 5:10). So it is that Christians must forgive one another as a condition of being reconciled with God. If we forgive others and especially those who hurt us and wrong us grievously, then this action of forgiveness configures us more closely to Christ Himself. Christ wants us to share in His witness that love is greater than sin.
True freedom, such as we hear in the Gospel, cannot be found when we are still enslaved to resentment and hatred for others.
Secondly, Christ invites everyone to the perfection of charity. We would be right to suggest that this is impossible for us – naturally speaking. But as Christians we follow our Saviour not in our own strength but in His grace. And His grace is the divine life being poured into our hearts through the Church not least by the Sacraments. And as we grow in grace and strive to live a life of grace then we grow in supernatural strength to be as Christ is. We are not perfecting ourselves, it is Christ doing this in us. Our part is cooperation, opening the door and not closing the door – avoiding the occasions of sin, repenting when we do sin, filling our minds with godly things and keeping ourselves in a state of grace to receive the sacraments.
Yes our Lord’s commands us to be perfect which is not possible in our own strength, but He does offer us His life, His grace, in order to be able to fulfill all His commands.