This week I preached on Matthew 5:38-48 in the prison where I serve as a chaplain. As you might imagine, the difficulties in living as a Christian in general, and more specifically as a peacemaker, in that environment are different than mine or yours and very intense.
We recalled the context of the Sermon on the Mount as a call we meditate upon when we pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the the Rosary, the Proclamation of the Kingdom. We connected it to the Gospel readings proclaimed in our liturgies over the past few Sundays from Matthew Chapter 5; the Beatitudes, being salt and light, and of going beyond and deeper than merely following the laws and rules of our religion by living our faith from the heart. And I spoke about a quote from G. K. Chesterton, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
Difficult may seem at first to be an understatement, when we wrestle with that seemingly impossible task of being perfect, because our personal understanding of words can be a stumbling block to wisdom. The English translation of this passage in the word “perfect” may lead us to think of this in a limited way but, in both Latin and Greek, the concept of “perfect” has to do with working to bring to fulfillment or completion, all the while keeping the final goal in mind. Is that not what the Father does? Is it then possible, to be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect? I say yes!
So we work to bring about the kingdom in the daily circumstances of our lives even as we exist as refugees in a strange land, longing for the day when we will see God face to face. We can do this with joy, even in the face of what appears to be failure in the wisdom of the world; if we do not define perfection in terms flawless execution but rather as consistently faithful striving. We can be perfect, not measured by how successful we are at getting others to respond positively to the blessings we try to share with them, but rather in terms of how faithful are we to our walk with Jesus. All the while understanding that, being faithful to that walk means that we will inevitably fall short, will surely sin, will stray from what we know we should do. Yet when we repent and reconcile with the Father, he always takes us back as his prodigal children.
I encouraged by the mercy of knowing that God expects me to make mistakes, and will always love me anyway. I am filled with gratitude by the promise that God will always accept my heartfelt and humbly penitent confession of sin, and forgive me. And I am perfected in understanding that God knows me as his perfect creation, even when I don’t.
So hang in there! Dare to be perfect with all of your flaws. Keep the end in mind and give your all to it’s fulfillment.
Peace and blessings to you always.