Bread on the Trail of Life: What Does the Lord Mean When he Calls Us to Be Perfect?
How can we be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect?
Jesus said to his disciples: "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." (St. Matthew 5: 43-48)
The beauty of creation reveals the beauty of the Creator
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - I am spending a little time in the beautiful Outer Banks of coastal North Carolina with my children and grandchildren. My prayer seems so rich when I observe the vastness of the ocean. The beauty of creation reveals the beauty of the Creator. It draws me to prayer and reflection. The reading from the Gospel of today's Holy Mass challenged me:
"Jesus said to his disciples: "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." (St. Matthew 5: 43-48)
How can we be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect?
The admonition from Jesus is very clear. It is repeated in other Gospel accounts and developed in several New Testament Epistles. Perhaps our problem with understanding (and responding) to the passage lies in one of the limitations that Jesus came to overcome.
We do yet not understand the One in whom and through whom we have been created - and are being re-created, Jesus Christ. We do not yet comprehend who we are - to become. Because we do not understand the meaning of the word, "perfect", we fail to grasp the call to participation and freedom contained in this wonderful invitation to conversion and transformation.
Filtering this word through our linguistic limitations, we may fail to even attempt to respond to the invitation and miss the grace of conversion needed to actually live the call to love. In Greek, the word is telios.
Telios refers to something being completed, brought to its full purpose, potential and intended end and vocation. For example, in the world of objects, a hammer is telios or perfect when it is hammering a nail. In the world of subjects, things are telios or perfect when they are fulfilling their nature.
We, like the God of Love who created us, are made for love. In Jesus Christ, we are now capacitated - to use a term frequently used by the early father and Bishop Ireneaus of Lyons - made capable by the grace of His Redemption, of loving as God loves us and of loving others with God's very love. "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn 4:16).
Until we respond to this invitation with both our words and our actions, we will not be complete or perfected. In our Western minds, we limit this word "perfect" and thereby fail to grasp its promise and potential. We equate it with being sinless, in the sense of never again making a wrong choice.We think of it mathematically rather than relationally.
However, the concept is also applied to Jesus by the author of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews in chapter 5 verses 8-9: "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."
Jesus was made perfect through what He suffered? Yet, Jesus was without sin. How then was He perfected? He came into the world to redeem, to transform us all by a life, and a death, of perfect sacrificial love. He fulfilled His purpose when He presided over the new creation from the Altar of that Cross and robbed death of its victory.
We are now called to be perfected - to love as He loved, to love with His love. By so doing we prove ourselves to be Sons and daughters of His Father, who, in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, has become Our Father. When we follow Jesus -in both word and deed - a dynamic process happens within us, a process of ever deepening conversion and transformation, a process of perfection.
We actually "participate in the Divine Nature" now, the Apostle Peter tells us. (2 Peter 1:4). We are made complete, perfected in charity, by grace and our continued cooperation with its dynamic work within us. We begin to change into the very new men and women that Jesus Christ has now capacitated us to become.
We fulfill our purpose of carrying on His life of redemptive love by loving even those who do not love us. We also continue His great work of Redemption, which He will complete upon His return, by living in His Body, the Church, of which we are members.The Church is the seed of the new creation.
Only when He returns will the entire creation will be reconstituted by love, made perfect, and handed back to the Father as a perfect gift of love. So, let us be perfect, as the Heavenly Father is perfect, in and through His Son and by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: perfect, perfected, perfection, conversion, holiness, complete, telios, Jesus, grace, born again, saved, prayer, Deacon Keith Fournier
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Living Faith News
- Receiving the Eucharist: I Have Decided to Kneel For Jesus
- The Holy Spirit: Sanctifier and Giver of Life, Love and Truth
- Pope Francis tweets his prayers following devastation in Moore
- The Paraclete: The Counselor Who Helps Us Fulfill Our Calling
- Pope Francis calls for change within the Church
- Atheists to have their books placed atop Gideon Bibles
- Killer whale with missing fins cared for by its pod family
- C-section leaves mom fighting for life over dreaded flesh-eating virus
- Pope Francis tells world's leaders to abandon 'cult of money'
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?