“I Want to See.”
By Blind Beggar Bart
No One Is, So Why Be Perfect?
Thank for your article last December . Last Sunday [2/23/2014], I was again perturbed by the gospel reading at mass, which reminded me of a heated discussion where a friend blurted out “no one’s perfect!” I was stomped by it, in the midst of discussing something, if I remember correctly, on following a Church teaching. And yet the gospel clearly stated, “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Mt 5:48]. The homily shed light on this when the priest said that it is divine revelation that man is called to be perfect like his Creator, that this call to perfection could not be achieved without believing in Jesus, and that God’s perfection is His love and mercy for everyone, both the good and the bad. Even so, isn’t it true that no one is perfect? Is it not asking too much that we strive to be perfect? – “Perturbed,” 2/28/2014.
I wonder if your friend would have blurted out the same thing (“no one’s perfect!”) when Nadia Comaneci got a perfect score of 10 for the first time in the history of Olympic gymnastics. The fact is, even by human standards, people have achieved perfection at a certain point or in certain aspects of their lives. We often hear encouraging words like “just believe you can do it”, “practice makes perfect”, etc. But why do we claim that this gospel call to perfection is impossible? We only have to imitate Jesus Christ, not necessarily in the way he actually lived, but in the way he thinks (1 Cor 2:16). Is not every mass attendance a practice towards having the mind of Christ by seeking to understand him through the readings and prayers? And would there not be more certainty if we not simply believe in ourselves but in Christ, in whose name we could ask God for the graces we need in seeking perfection?
In Scriptures, to be perfect is to be holy like God – “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Pt 1:15-16). And His perfection and holiness is shown in His love and mercy to everyone, even to those who sin against Him (Mt 5:43-47). So it is with us: To be holy, we must love our enemies. It is a divine revelation that imperfect as we are, we are still called to be perfect. And it is indeed mystical that sinners as we are, it is still possible for us to be holy (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2013-2014), as Church history has proven through the many saints it has recognized. Yes, it is easier said than done, but I wonder if we would have the same hesitation if we are given the opportunity to acquire things we desire like material wealth or prestige. (Reflect on this Sunday’s gospel, 3/2/2004, on serving two masters, Mt 6:24-34). Perhaps it is just a matter of having the desire. If we profess we are Christians, then where is our desire for holiness? How else can we pursue holiness without believing that “nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37)? Thus the second reading of last Sunday’s mass (2/23/2014) becomes relevant: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God…“(1 Cor 3:16-23).
God knows our human weaknesses hence the need of a savior, who alone is our Lord Jesus Christ, the one we imitate, and in whom we find mercy in the sacrament of penance. As Lent nears, let us benefit from this, while learning to understand God’s call to be perfect, then desiring to be so and never losing hope. As St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.”
If you would like to read more on seeking holiness despite human frailty, I suggest the book “Human but Holy” by Leo Trese (1965) shown below. Click on the image or find it in the Café Store (tab found on the left of this webpage).
If you would like to email me and hopefully find my response in this column, please send it to email@example.com (for now) addressed to me, or go to Contact Us of this website. Links to previous articles are found below. –BBB, 3/2/2014.