We are called to the holiness of God. That is the extraordinary claim made in both the first reading and Gospel.
Yet how is it possible that we can be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?
Jesus explains that we must be imitators of God as his beloved children (see Ephesians 5:1-2).
As God does, we must love without limit — with a love that does not distinguish between friend and foe, overcoming evil with good (see Romans 12:21).
Jesus himself, in his passion and death, gave us the perfect example of the love that we are called to.
He offered no resistance to the evil — even though he could have commanded 12 legions of angels to fight alongside him. He offered his face to be struck and spit upon. He allowed his garments to be stripped from him. He marched as his enemies compelled him to the Place of the Skull. On the cross, he prayed for those who persecuted him (see Matthew 26:53-54, 67; 27:28, 32; Luke 23:34).
In all this he showed himself to be the perfect Son of God. By his grace, and through our imitation of him, he promises that we, too, can become children of our heavenly Father.
God does not deal with us as we deserve, as we sing in the psalm. He loves us with a Father’s love. He saves us from ruin. He forgives our transgressions.
He loved us even when we had made ourselves his enemies through our sinfulness. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (see Romans 5:8).
We have been bought with the price of the blood of God’s only Son (see 1 Corinthians 6:20). We belong to Christ now, as St. Paul says in the epistle. By our baptism, we have been made temples of his Holy Spirit.
And we have been saved to share in his holiness and perfection. So let us glorify him by our lives lived in his service, loving as he loves.
Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.