You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt. 5:43-48)
“Nobody’s perfect.” It’s a common excuse when we make a mistake. We might like the perfect date, or the perfect sunset, or the perfect evening, but we don’t like applying the word to ourselves because, well, nobody’s perfect. So how do we understand the call of Jesus for us to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect”?
First of all, we have to recognize that this is a commandment of Jesus. Secondly, we have to recognize that it is possible. Otherwise, Jesus would not have demanded it! But the key to the commandment is understanding what Jesus meant.
Does he mean that we should all get straight A’s in school? Does he mean that we should never get a parking ticket, a demotion at work or an admonition for having a stain on our shirt? Is it intellectual perfection, physical perfection, or is it something else.?
It’s something else. It’s spiritual perfection. Striving after spiritual perfection is our real purpose on earth. It’s the purpose of our lives. Each of us must respond to the universal call that God gives to each of us to seek spiritual perfection. We are called to holiness because we only enter Heaven in a “perfected” state.
But if we could do it ourselves, we wouldn’t need a savior. And that’s where Jesus comes in. He is the means by which we can reach spiritual perfection. His Word, His Sacraments and His Commands are the means. Through Christ, with Christ and in Christ, we are configured to Christ through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Seeking perfection isn’t a one day thing; it’s our work for a lifetime.
Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty