Time: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm mountain (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm eastern).
Sr. Anne Marie will lead us in prayer prior to our session. (Please keep Sr. Anne Marie in your prayers as she heads to surgery next week. Thank you!)
REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
The Command to be Perfect
When Jesus tells us to be perfect as Our Heavenly Father is perfect, many of us feel defeated before we start. We know God doesn’t ask us to do the impossible. Nevertheless, we pretty much don’t really believe it is possible to be perfect.
Yet, it’s almost inherent in us to dream about the perfect family, workplace, neighborhood, religious community, parish, etc. And we feel disturbance, tension, even scandal when it’s missing in ourselves, friends, spouses, parents, children, the world at large. Our gossip always revolves around a failure in perfection as we see it. Our experience is that we are so often disillusioned we conclude our expectations are not realistic.
But our disbelief in the possibility of perfection is often founded on mistaken ideas of what it means to be perfect and how to attain it. Our notions may vaguely center around dictionary definitions such as: being entirely without fault or defect, flawless. Or we may have worldly ideas that focus on physical beauty, fame, popularity, temporal excellence – all things that are passing away, and so can’t be maintained.
Two considerations are important here. The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us to understand the first important point. “Creation did not spring forth complete from the hands of God. The universe was created in a state of journeying toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it.” #304
This is hugely important. It means that we have been created with a need to develop over time! It has pleased God to make us this way.
This movement is evident in our physical development. We begin as a single cell with human DNA that is particular to us personally. Quickly we develop in stages in the womb only to continue that development once we are born. We do not question the movement from infant to toddler to early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, etc. One thing is certain. We don’t have the same expectations of toddlers as we do with adults. We love them, and we are patient with normal growth.
This same developmental principle holds in our spiritual life, as well. We are all at a particular age in the spiritual life. Some of us are like two-year-olds, busy, curious, interested in many things, but centered in ourselves and prone to discouragement and even tantrums when the Lord doesn’t always give us what we want.
Some of us are like middle school children who are primarily occupied with questions of fairness and justice and who tend to put God on trial for what He allows and doesn’t allow. Some of us are teenagers full of a mix of ideals and rebellion, generous, sensitive, and even heroic, yet sometimes resisting norms and tried and true wisdom. And finally, some have the wisdom, acquired through suffering and discipline, of the elderly in the spiritual life. Maturity is bought with time and grace, goodwill, and lots of trials, sufferings and error. We learn as we go. This is part of God’s lovely design for us.
The other very important thing to consider when regarding perfection is what Jesus actually said: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
Our concepts of perfection often have nothing to do with the Father. They tend to be mathematical formulas that give us the Illusion that perfection can be attained by our efforts alone. Jesus has already told us that without Him we can do nothing. It becomes evident when we examine the fruits of solo efforts at perfection. The self-made man quickly ends up with unhealthy struggles: hypocrisy, scrupulosity, pathological perfectionism, self-righteousness, rash judgments, disillusionment, even fatalism.
Perfection depends upon one thing: knowing the Father, loving Him, and becoming like Him, like Jesus, according to His design for us. It is a call to relationship, to loving our Abba, Father. (This is a specialty of the Holy Spirit: to form our hearts to cry out for Him.)
St. Therese knew this in a profound way. She reminds us we do not have to be perfect to approach the Father. We do not have to climb the steep mountain of perfection first to have access to the Father’s love. “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” ― C.S. Lewis
St. Therese imaged Jesus’ arms as an elevator that would lift her just as a small child depends on her father to carry her when the journey is too steep or too far. Perfection works in us, in the measure, we draw near and come to know and trust the Father. It is the Father’s love that makes us perfect, that makes us who we are meant to be. We are, as Pope St JPII has said: “…not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us.”
Like the rich young man, each of us has different things that will be asked of us if we want to be like God in Whose Image and Likeness we are made. This will always involve change. “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” St. John Henry Cardinal Newman
To the question, Can we be perfect? Yes! But it is something that, beginning here in time, will only be fully completed in eternity where we are made immortal and incorruptible and irrevocably united with God forever. The important thing is to begin. Draw close to the Father, let your heart be lifted to Him, and the current of His love will carry you the rest of the way.
- What does the Perfection of the Father look like to you? “ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5: 44-45
- What kinds of imperfections bother you most, in yourself, in others?
- Where in your life do you want to be more Christ-like? “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1Jn 3:2
- Perfection runs a definite course in each of us. In what areas of your life do you need to be more patient? In what areas do you need to take more initiative?
- When the rich young man encounters Jesus and asks Him what he must do to be perfect, Jesus tells him one thing is lacking. If you asked Jesus the same question, what might He say to you? Remember that perfection has to do with becoming fully who you are created to be.
Thank you for joining us! Peace, Blessings and God’s Graces to you.