“So be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”~Matthew 5:48
I’ll be honest, when I hear this reading, my perfectionistic-in-recovery self cringes a little. I have experienced first hand how destructive perfectionistic thinking can be and I can’t help but wonder, why would Jesus say this? My faith tells me though, that being narcissistically obsessed with everything being Pinterest perfect, or beating oneself up for making mistakes is not what Jesus has in mind.
Truly, you just have to open the Bible and you will find Jesus telling us to do things that at times seem almost impossible. Love your enemies, forgive those who hurt you, bless those who persecute you. Take no money bag on the journey, and give your cloak to those who ask for you tunic. Jesus calls us to live a radically different and sacrificial life. Really, Jesus calls us to be holy.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’~Matthew 19:23-26
If trying to be holy can’t be intimidating enough, Jesus tells us straight up- you can’t do it. Yet, the good news is, God can do it for you. One of my favorite saints, St Therese of Lisieux talks about this when she describes her “Little Way” to heaven. She too was discouraged by the thought of trying to be a saint and what that entails. She discovered by reflecting on the Sacred Scriptures, however, that becoming holy has a lot less to do with us trying to be perfect and making great heroic acts, and a lot more to do with us becoming humble and childlike so that God pick us up and bring us to heaven. She teaches us to abandon ourselves in faith, and actually embrace our weaknesses so that God can make us holy. This is why she is called a Doctor of the Church. It is really about abandoning ourselves to His mercy when we fail, when we are weak, when we don’t know what choice we should make or don’t know how we can possibly do what we know we should. When we can’t seem to do the most basic Christian acts because it feels too overwhelming. When we are struggling with temptation, doubt, fear, discouragement, laziness, pride, denial, lust, greed, envy, gluttony, anger, despair, or hurt. Give it to Him, and He will pick you up and carry you, transforming you in the process and making you perfect. After all, for God, all things are possible.