All Good – Br. Luke Ditewig

Matthew 5:43-48

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Perfect? This sounds impossible. Remember one of your favorite teachers, whether a family member or in school, perhaps a coach. Imagine a favorite teacher saying: “Keep growing into more. You can do it.” How does it feel to hear that?

Today’s Gospel is the last in a series from Jesus:[i] You have heard it was said … but I say to you … .” With each one, Jesus invites beyond what has been already learned. You have heard: Don’t murder. But I say beware of your anger and insulting each other. You have heard: Don’t commit adultery. But I say beware of lust. Keep the spirit of the law. You have heard: Hate your enemy. But I say love your enemies.

Like a parent, teacher, coach, or one whom we admire, Jesus says: There’s more than the basic rules you already know. This is the way of adulthood.[ii] Keep on growing into further maturity, into an expansive spirit with integrity and mercy toward everyone, all the time. Scholar Dale Bruner writes the word translated as perfect is not about the height of accomplishment to which we reach up but rather the width of mercy, reaching out to embrace, and Bruner translates it as “perfectly mature.” [iii]

In the parallel passage in Luke, Jesus says: “be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”[iv] The New English Bible puts Matthew’s line as “be all goodness, as your heavenly Father is all good.” Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message: “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. … Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Perfection and maturity are impossible. I grew up listening to Sally O’Connor sing that the Bible is full of “improbable people for impossible tasks.”[v] What God promises and commands, God also enables. By the Spirit, we keep coming bit by bit, more into life, more into maturity, learning one step at a time. Jesus keeps telling us—often to our surprise—that there’s more.

There’s more not simply us individually but for us together as community. Jesus was speaking to groups, including here. We as community, as schools of love, in forms familial, parish, monastic, and more, are invited to keep growing up together, living generously and graciously as God does toward us.

Imagine that favorite teacher in the context of class, for who you all would become. Consider the saints gathered round us, particularly for us Brothers the monastic saints as above in the clerestory windows, of Benedict, Ignatius, and our own Father Benson. Listen to good teachers, including these saints, saying: “Keep growing into more. You can do it.”

What is Jesus inviting you or us into? What might our teachers in our lives and our collective history reflect about Jesus’ invitation into more? It is not a height to be reached, but a widening embrace of mercy and grace, like God is to us, all good.


[i] Matthew 5:17-48

[ii] Frederick Dale Bruner (1987) Matthew: A Commentary, Volume I. Dallas: Word Publishing, p224.

[iii] Ibid. Bruner also shares wording from Luke and NEB on p224.

[iv] Luke 6:36

[v] Michael & Sally O’Conner. “Improbable People for Impossible Tasks” © 1990 Improbable People Ministries. Accessed online June 15, 2021: https://improbablepeople.org/music/hey-god/

 

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