“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”, Jesus said it! And it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of his words! In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus rather said, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). So shouldn’t Jesus be merciful to me in my imperfections? The call to be perfect makes me feel quite uneasy. I am like those who cut corners, do things in a hurry because they want to do many things, not just a few perfectly, slowly done jobs. The call to perfection makes me feel guilty. The traditionalist Catholics who want observance of every little detail of the law, tell me I am not perfect. I answer them that Jesus didn’t observe the details of the oral laws of the Pharisees like washing hands before meal, not healing on the Sabbath. The traditionalists reply to me with last week’s Gospel, “I tell you, unless your righteousness doesn’t exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So am I going to hell, then? No, Jesus calls us to fulfill the law more than the Pharisees, but not in the same way.
Not externally by multiplying the external observances, but rather Jesus invites us to fulfill the Law, from the heart, having in us the same intentions, the same Love, that is the Holy Spirit in our heart. Thus, we will be justified not by our own efforts and works, but by the Living Grace of God, the Holy Spirit, leading us to express that new Inner Life into deeds, such as loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, blessing them, fighting evil NOT with more evil, but with goodness, with the very goodness of God himself in us.
The perfection that we are called to imitate is actually given to us in our hearts, if we ask for it persistently. It is the perfection of Love that is in God himself. It is to love the other for his own sake, effectively willing the good of the other for the sake of the other, not just for my sake, not hoping to be rewarded by the other but only by God himself. How much time, every day, do we spend calculating the rewards of our generosity, expecting a “return of the elevator”? I won’t write him a letter of reference because he didn’t write me one last year.” “I will be kind to that one because he was kind to me last week.” “I will not give this driver a chance to cut me off because he didn’t allow me to merge into his lane 5 minutes ago.”
All this is not love, but self-serving even when we love those who love us in return. Now try to spend one day, or one hour, doing what is right, what is like your Father in heaven is asking you to do, what the Holy Spirit is empowering you to do. Follow St. Therese of Lisieux. Right now, what is the most loving thing you could do, not what is most beneficial to you, in terms of an increase of pleasure, possessions, power, popularity, but what is promoting the true good of the other? Such as not taking revenge, doing to your enemies what you would like them to do for you. And remember, being perfect doesn’t mean to be infinitely good like God is. It is to be all that you can be, with the power and love of the Living God in you. As a child shines the love of his parents, so you, as a child of God, have received an identity and a mission more than a privilege. It is to shine God’s love on others, the good ones and the bad ones. In fact the bad ones need your love more.
God bless you!