7th Sunday OT:
Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Clear enough? I guess I should just sit down now. All that Jesus expects of his disciples is that we be perfect. So, if you are not perfect yet, get cracking on that… I will check back with you next week. Let’s hope we are all perfect by then.
How do you hear these words? Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. At first it may sound a little bit like Jesus is being completely unreasonable. He seems to be asking for something that is clearly beyond our power to achieve.
As some of you may know, I have a couple of jokes that I use over and over again. One of my favorite jokes is when I see kids who are going into the gym for basketball practice, I always ask them what they are doing: going to basketball practice… So, I always ask them quite seriously, ok, would you mind doing me a favor? When you are slam-dunking the basketball, would you make sure you don’t hang on the rim? I don’t want to have to replace those hoops, they are expensive. One girl said to me, sheepishly, “Fr. Jake, I can’t even touch the net…” The funny part of the joke is that I’m asking 4 ft tall 5th graders not to dunk a basketball, because it is so obvious that none of them can jump that high. Asking them to dunk a basketball is something clearly beyond their ability.
When Jesus is asking us to be perfect as God the Father is perfect, he is clearly calling us to something beyond our ability. But we know, without a doubt, that Jesus is loving and benevolent. He is not calling us to perfection simply as a way to leave us frustrated failures. His call to perfection is not so much an expectation, but an inspiration.
Nobody knows us better than Jesus Christ. He is the Word through whom all things were made. Even more, Jesus Christ became human. He knows us inside and out, so to speak. He would never call us to perfection unless he saw that potential within us. He knows we can do better than sinfulness, he knows we were not created for mediocrity. He did not come to earth to die on the cross so that we would become basically nice people. He came to call us to something so much more.
And don’t we want that? Don’t we want more than just mediocrity? I don’t know about you, but I have always been a competitive person. If you don’t believe me, ask my Mom. I have never been satisfied with just good enough. I always wanted to win every game, to get an A in every class. I haven’t always been able to get that, but I want to. Is that an unrealistic expectation? Sure, it is unrealistic to expect perfection, but I want it.
I think that there is a desire for perfection, a desire for holiness in the heart of each of us. We want to be holy, we want to overcome our sins, we want to live for others. We might not quite get there. But, doesn’t Jesus’ call to perfection resonate in your heart? It does in mine. When I hear Jesus telling us to be perfect, I don’t know if I could possibly get there in this life, but I want to. It makes me want to turn to Jesus. Yes, Lord, I do want to be perfect. Help me, give me the grace, show me the places where I need to grow. You Lord have called me to be perfect, now help me.
What a beautiful gift we have in the Eucharist. Here the perfect one, the Son of God, gives us his body and blood to be our food and drink. Here he gives us the strength to fight against sin, to fight against our weakness and shortcomings. It is true that Jesus calls us to be perfect, but here in the Holy Eucharist he gives us grace grow in holiness. We will never be perfect in this life, and that’s ok. But, through the power of this sacrament Christ will help us to be more like him.