(Photo background by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)
Jesus instructs his followers (that’s us) to be “perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is a most astounding and intimidating teaching. As its expression, the Lord says that we are not to resist the evil doer; to offer one’s cheek if one has been hit on the other; to go the extra mile with a person; to give to anyone who begs; and, to love one’s enemies and pray for those who persecute or hurt you. If I were look at his teaching and seek to put it into practice, I would soon realize that it is beyond my strength and some, even outside of my desires. How can I live his teaching, how can I be perfect as my “heavenly Father is perfect”? The answer to my question is “I can’t.” I can’t turn the other cheek. I can’t love and pray for those who treat me badly. I can’t be perfect as the Father is perfect. All I do is trip and fall, all I do is make mistakes and give into temptation. So what’s the use, what’s the point? I always make the same mistake – I forget that I do not seek to follow the Lord alone, but rather I’m always with the Lord and the Lord is with me. And we seek to follow the Lord by a faith that may be fragile, is stronger in its desire than our discouragement of our failures. The movement within our hearts is stirred and enflamed by the witness of what he has done for us.
St. Paul poses a question in the Second Reading. He asks us, “Do you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” I may think of myself in many different ways, but the notion that I’m God’s temple is not my usual first thought. Instead, I tend to think of myself as a disappointment to God. I may have moments of fidelity, but they are short lived. I’m like dead weight to the Lord and his more faithful followers. Yet, God has identified each of us as his temple. So much so that the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell, to live within our hearts. It is amazing to comprehend that God refuses that there be an unbridgeable gap between himself and us. And so God lives within us and we are his temple. God’s identification does not permit debate or other possibilities. In our hearts we simply repeat those most beautiful words: God has chosen me to be his temple. It is from the acceptance of God’s will and judgement that we seek to follow the Lord and strive to be perfect. We come to know in our minds and hearts, little by little, that we are loved by the Father by a perfect love, a love that is eternal, is limitless. And so we put one foot in front of the other, seeking to love God back with a love that only grows and expands, to “be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
God Bless and Take Care - Fr John