He is challenging his followers to be willing to go beyond the letter of the law and embrace something much more difficult -- to embrace “the other”, those who are unlike them.
He calls us to be holy as God is holy, to love our enemies, to give to whoever asks of us. How is all of this humanly possible to the extent that Jesus is asking us to take it? It seems too much! God’s goodness is so great, it is immeasurable -- how can any human act as perfect as an act of God?
Some theologians say that God’s goodness comes down to “generosity.” A generosity so grand that it moved God to create all known reality and reaches a series of climax moments in the incarnation; in the self-giving that was Jesus’ death, and his resurrection which becomes our salvation. This spirit of generosity we also call divine love.
Theologian and scholar Michael Gorman says that in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2: 6-11) which we usually translate as “although he was in the form of God, he emptied himself”...he suggests would be more accurate to translate as “because he was in the form of God he emptied himself”. This changes the meaning for the act, which previously suggested was done despite his essence, to an act that was done precisely because of his essence. Making “self-emptying” a fundamental reality of the essence of God.
So then this “self-emptying generosity”, this out pouring of God’s self into the world empowers us, fills us, emboldens us and ultimately changes us to become more generous, less violent, less bent on getting even and more deeply moved to be kind to each other.
All of this is accessible, too, precisely because we are, as St. Paul says, temples of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
So, through this generosity of self, given to us by God in Christ, we are enabled to begin to work for ways in which our society makes room for the immigrant and the refugee rather than ways to keep them out.
Filled with the Holy Spirit we are called to let go of all traces of racist and bigoted attitudes towards others and to work for justice and peace in our homes, our communities, our schools, our states, and our nation, and in our world. To build places where each person is welcomed and respected as a beloved child of God.
Perhaps this generosity of spirit grows from first finding our own gratitude for being loved so deeply and passionately by God, just as we are.
And from that gratitude grows our ability to be generous towards “the other”.
Let us ask ourselves each day this week: For what am I grateful for today? To whom will I be generous toward today?