7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  I want us to really sit in this phrase. What feelings does this phrase bring up? I find that I feel quite hardened to the idea. I find it a hard balance between “God loves you as you are, where you are” and “be perfect as your heavenly Father.” Another question I have is, why should we be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? It seems like a command from Jesus, yet we know it is impossible to fulfill this. We therefore have a choice.  We could shut down and think He couldn’t mean that.  Seriously, why would we compare ourselves to God? We want to look good, how is this possible if we take this Scripture seriously? It feels like you are the lowest student in the class and the teacher says why can’t you be like the smartest. Or even better, you are a crippled athlete bound to a wheel chair and for you it is an amazing feat to get out of bed and manage the smallest physical things, then someone says to you that you need to be like that world class athlete.  How would that not be depressing? I suspect that it would be depressing. However, if the person really knew you and knew what you were actually capable of, that you are not merely a crippled athlete and that you could rise to the greatness and that it was undignified to sit in the wheelchair and not achieve your potential, then they would encourage you. Any good coach would do this.

Therefore, I go back to the question of why should we be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect?  Because it is possible and it is the greatest joy to rise to this perfection. The world does not need good people, it has lots of those. The world does not need nice people, it has lots of those, too. The world doesn’t need better laws, it has lots of those. These imperfections are just slowing down the damage we are causing. Last week at our priest gathering, the woman from Caritas Canada said that many humanitarian efforts cause more harm than good.  Isn’t that shocking? No, the world needs people who are willing to be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect. The world needs saints. We may think that we are not good enough and so we should give up now. But you must not have confidence in your own flesh, but rather have faith in God.

To have faith means to believe in something unseen. For me, one of those unseen things is my ability to be perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect. God said we could be and we have lists of horrible, hopeless people who became great saints. King David committed adultery, murdered the lady’s husband to cover up his sin, and is now Saint David. Wow, what a transformation. Saint Paul rounded up Christians, put them in jail and approved their murder, and he is Saint Paul, writing most of the New Testament. Mary of Egypt would go on pilgrimages to seduce the young men and destroy their purity and their relationship with God. She is now Saint Mary of Egypt. Augustine used his intellect to win unjust court cases, his eloquence to spin the emperor’s murder of unarmed Christians, his charm to win the hearts of women for lustful purposes and is once quoted saying, “Give me chasity, Lord, but not yet.”  Now he is the great Saint Augustine, Church Father and Doctor of the Church.

Yes, if these men and woman looked at their own flesh they would have wilted at the Scripture, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” But they did not, they met the perfection of God and rose to it. We might be tempted to think, “I have never been that bad, I mean I am just an average person I have never been really bad and mostly pretty good.”  Well, if we stay like that, God won’t be able to work with us because we are trusting in our human flesh and not in God.  We are not perfect and we have the ability to be.  Yes, this statement is impossible - to be perfect- but all things are possible in Christ. Do you think that the Christians who left everything to follow Christ are stronger than you or I? I tell you, they were not. The difference is they looked to Christ. They found that pearl of great price to whom everything else paled. They found a Love greater than all and it led them to perfection. You and I can be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect for sure in Heaven when we are fully united in Him. On earth, we prepare for Heaven by knowing this perfection and loving it.

When we first heard, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” we may have wanted to ignore those words, to “un-hear” them. There might be many other things in life that we want to “un-hear”, to stop our ears, shut our hearts, because we feel we couldn’t give them up. Where has God invited you, but you just haven’t gone? That place, my friend, is your road to perfection. What is the one person you don’t want to deal with? That person, my brother or sister, is your road to perfection. What is one Church teaching that you fail to keep?  That teaching, my friend, is your road to perfection. Let us ask God right now to go forth boldly on this road to holiness and perfection. It is a tough road but full of joy and perfection. Humanity needs us to journey to Jesus to perfection so our great and glorious Coach can teach us to be truly all that we can be.      

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