“Be Perfect, Just as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect.”
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)
Every three years, this line from Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount comes around to us. And every three years, it is a reminder of the high standards to which followers of Jesus are called.
The line is from the section in which we are told that Jesus expects us to love our enemies, do good to those who persecute us, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and give to anyone who asks of us. These will be the behaviors that distinguish us from nonbelievers.
Some have suggested that these are simply ideals, not instructions to be taken seriously. Others have suggested that there were hidden meanings in these instructions – ways to resist evil without actually doing so physically.
Fr. Ken Laverone, OFM suggested in his homily this past Sunday that these are not only to be taken seriously, but that it is within the realm of possibility for each of us to move towards this holiness, this perfection. He pointed to a young child who had been happily dancing in the pew beside her father during the sung Gloria, noting that most likely she learned to dance and be free in loving response from her parents. They had not discouraged or stifled her openness to joy and beauty or insisted that she sit or stand stiffly rather than expressing the happiness she felt in the moment.
This is the way we are to be as well. Our Father is loving, forgiving, patient, accepting of our limitations, always wanting the best for us and for all humans. As we grow in these characteristics, we too become reflections of the perfection of our Father. We’ll not make it to perfection in our lifetimes, but with God’s help, we’ll become sons and daughters of whom God will be proud.