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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus charges us to be merciful and to stop judging others. But we cannot perform such behaviors on our own strength—we need God’s assistance.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus tells his followers: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The perfection that he urges—which includes a radical love of enemies, the practice of nonviolence in the face of aggression, the refusal to judge one’s brothers and sisters, and an embrace of poverty, meekness, and simplicity of heart—is not desirable or even possible within a natural framework.

The form of life outlined in the Sermon on the Mount would strike Aristotle as excessive and irrational—and that is just the point. Its viability and beauty will emerge only when one’s mind, will, and body have been invaded and elevated by the love that God is.

This is not to say that the natural moral excellences perceived by Aristotle are invalidated by grace; the invasion of the sacred does not overwhelm or undermine the secular. But it does indeed transfigure it. This transfiguration is the effect of love, working its way through the moral self.