“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

1 Kings 21:17-2; Psalm 50(51):3-6,11,16; Matthew 5:43-48

This call to perfection at the end of Jesus’ extended Sermon on the Mount may be the key to understanding this whole text. For many of us, particularly those attuned to the reality of history, it may sound absurd. After all, how many of us truly love our enemies and wish to ‘do good’ to those who hurt us. The point is that it’s an ideal, a prize that we must pursue.

The events we remember in South Africa today seem to fly in the face of any simplistic call to perfection. Nonviolent protest was met with violence. Legitimate grievances were met with blunt refusal at first. And yet the events of ’76 were indeed the beginning of the end. After it, there was no status quo to which South Africa would return – just waves of resistance until 1994. And most of the strategy and tactics for change was nonviolent.

What of today? The call to perfection – itself perhaps a recognition that it is unrealisable without Divine Grace – remains an ideal. How we work towards that perfection in our lives – showing mercy, loving (or at least desiring to love) enemies, seeking the good – is an ongoing struggle, one far more complex than the youth of ’76 faced.

Loving God,

As we remember the young people of 1976, we ask that you help us keep our eyes on the prize - the call to perfection that Jesus demands. May your Spirit guide us in our daily, often imperfect, attempts to be perfect.

Amen.

 
Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
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