“Therefore you are to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Christ’s divine words seem like an inspiration and a burden to us. Perfection? That’s a tough one! As a people pleaser and perfectionist, the word “perfection” serves as both my motivator and my worst enemy.
Does Christ really expect true perfection from us?
If you didn’t find yourself prone to mistakes as a child, certainly the roller coaster of adolescence, college, adulthood, or, better yet, marriage brought a mishap or two! Other than our Blessed Mother, none of us have been given the miraculous gift to never slip and fall. This makes following the Lord’s call in the book of Matthew quite a challenge! It feels impossible to attain perfection individually, much less in relationships when other people are involved! If we can’t control ourselves, how on earth can we be perfect with another person?
God created Eve for Adam not just so he would have someone to talk to – he could have babbled on to the animals or rambled to himself! God made Eve so that she and Adam could assist one another, grow together, love, and be loved. God, who is love, is perfect – He and He alone. Yet it is through our ability to love and be loved, calling upon the grace of God’s perfect love, that we can be fulfilled! That is our taste of perfection – Christ’s life within us through grace.
No, we cannot achieve absolute “perfection” in this life. Yet we can receive Christ, in His perfect power, wisdom, and grace, through the sacraments and our personal devotions. We can experience Him through loving another because Christ dwells at the center of every relationship – in our families, our friendships, or our vocations. God knows that we are sinners. He has seen us fall as He has been there throughout our journey, and He will continue to be there for what lies ahead. Perfection awaits us in Heaven – the ultimate goal. He desires for us to reach heaven and see Him face-to-face and live eternally in His presence. There we can be made perfect, in our holiness with Him.
So what can we expect while we tarry on this earth?
We can expect to strive, to fall, to get up, and to try again. This is our responsibility – we must choose to continue striving. We determine what we focus on and how we respond when we fail. Who do we reach out to for help to start again? He will be there to help us up. He is always there! He lives in your spouse, in your children, your co-workers, your leaders – in the faces of all those close to us and in perfect strangers. We need only ask God for the grace to see it. Christ dwells in all of His creation, but most importantly in the people created in His image.
As we serve Him in our vocations, He gives us grace in each sacrament and the opportunity to love as Christ loves. He loves us so much that He chose to live among us and lay His life down for us! Our God is a father who wants nothing but the best for his children. This is what He expects of us: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Eph 5:1). We are called to imitate His sacrificial love not just in our devotion to Christ, but also how we speak to, care for, forgive, seek forgiveness from, and pray for His children.
In Philippians 3:12 Saint Paul wrote: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” He knows us more deeply than we know ourselves, and He promises to remain with us in all that we do. He simply asks that we never give up in our imperfection. Allow Him to be the perfect part of our imperfect lives. Allow Him to be the perfect love in our marriage. Allow Him to be the strength to get up again and seek to forgive and be forgiven. May we call upon grace – “God’s life within us” – to permeate our every move along our journey to Heaven.