Are We Called to Perfection? by Gayle Somers

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By Gayle Somers, Catholic Exchange, February 21, 2020

Gayle Somers is a member of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Phoenix and has been writing and leading parish Bible studies since 1996. She is the author of three bible studies, Galatians: A New Kind of Freedom Defended (Basilica Press), Genesis: God and His Creation and Genesis: God and His Family (Emmaus Road Publishing). Gayle and her husband Gary reside in Phoenix and have three grown children.


Jesus told His followers to “be perfect.”  Is that even possible?

Gospel (Read Mt 5:38-48)

Gayle SomersIn His extended teaching to His followers in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called them to a remarkable way of life.  It is helpful to understand the historical context for this session on the mountain.  In the Old Testament, when Moses assembled the Israelites at Mt. Sinai after their deliverance from Egypt, God came down on the mountain to meet with them in a physical presence of fire, smoke, and loud thunder.  He “spoke” the Ten Commandments to His people, giving them a radically new way to live.  It was “new” in the sense that no nation had codified behavior like this, but, in fact, it was how God originally designed man to live, before the Fall.  In that sense, it was primordially ancient.  When Jesus sat with His followers and taught them, He fulfilled that Old Testament typology as He gave them the new (yet ancient) Law of Love, made possible in the New Covenant He would seal in His own blood.  What would it require of them?

As Jesus begins to unfold this Law of Love, we can see how radical it is.  He quotes the Old Testament maxim, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (see Ex 21:24).  This law was given to limit retribution for a wrong, not to incite it.  Jesus tells His followers to forget about retribution and vengeance.  In fact, He asks the unthinkable of them:  “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.”  Why?  ….

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