Jesus Crucified

Today’s First Reading at the Sacrifice of the Mass on this Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time comes from Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 and concerns God’s call for us to be holy; that is, for the sake of God being without hatred in our hearts, without sin, without motives of revenge, and without a grudge against anyone. To be holy is to be love for God’s sake; and that definition of love is not to be confused with secular societies’ definition of love, which means being apathetic and tolerant of sin.

    The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy. “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

This was not the first or the last time that God has called us to be like Him in perfection or holiness. Here are a number of other examples in sacred Scripture:

  • “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
  • “For I, the LORD, am your God; and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy. You shall not make yourselves unclean, then, by any swarming creature that crawls on the ground” (Lev. 11:44).
  • “And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas. 1:4).
  • “Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I (am) holy” (1 Pet. 1:14-16).
  • “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:2-3).

Being that it is absolutely clear in sacred Scripture that God has called us to be perfect, why do we still hear a litany of Christians saying that perfection or holiness is not possible while we are still living on earth? I believe their unscriptural excuse boils down to three reasons. There are three things we seem to misunderstand or fear about the Holy Trinity and our call to holiness.
The first reason why Christians object to or fear God’s call to be perfect is because they fail to understand God the Father. What I mean by that is that God has never called any us to do the impossible. Quite to the contrary! God not only calls His children to do the possible, but He has went so far as to providing them with every means to do everything that He has ever commanded them to do. It is absolutely true that we cannot make ourselves perfect or holy, but it is through our Cooperation with God that His grace propels us into being conformed into the image of His Son (Cf. Rom. 8:29).
If we are going to believe in God then we have to accept and believe in the fact that God actually loves us and wants more for us than we want for ourselves. God truly does want us to be holy and perfect, and He has and will continue to go to every means to give us the life that will glorify Him here on earth and the life that we deserve for eternity.
The second reason why Christians object to or fear God’s call for us to be perfect is because they fail to understand God the Son. Christ Jesus, who is perfectly everything like His Father, became man, walked the earth, established the New Covenant, and gave over His body to those who hated Him, for our Salvation. If you don’t know what perfection means, or what it is, or what it looks like then you haven’t consider the image of Christ on the Cross. That IS perfection, par excellence!
Indeed, God the Father has not only called us to be perfect, but went so far as to send us His own Son, in His own image, to show up the example and the way to be perfect. On top of all that, Christ Jesus established the Catholic Church to be a community of grace and sacraments for those striving towards perfection. Therefore, if you want to follow the call of God to be perfect then follow Christ.
“Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”. . . “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt. 19:16-21). Truly, following Jesus on the road to perfection is not just some lofty ideal or noble sentiment. On the contrary, following Jesus means to follow Him where His journey ended so that it could begin again – that’s to Mt. Calvary – sacrifice, suffering, and death of old things.
The final reason why Christians object to God’s call for us to be perfect is because they desire not to Cooperate with the work and mission of the Holy Spirit. I once heard a wise priest describe the Holy Spirit as being like that person on the sidelines who roots us on as we compete – “You can do it!” “Keep it up!” “Faster!” “Pace yourself!” I enjoy that image of the Holy Spirit very much, because it reminds me that God is a God of empowerment. He not only tells us to be like Him, but He goes out of His way to lovingly offer us every help and opportunity for us to achieve the goal He set for us. And the Holy Spirit is who He sent with His Son to help Him fulfill His mission and, in turn, God the Son gave us the same Spirit to help us along our pilgrimage to Calvary. Therefore, if you want to be perfect then discern the work of the Spirit of God in your life and Cooperate with Him.
I know, I know; all of this is easier said than done, but if God did not believe that you were up to the task, then He wouldn’t have created you in the first place. So let’s get at it! Let us Cooperate with God and be the holy people we were created to be!

God I can’t make myself perfect,
but I believe that you want to see everything that your Son is fully in me,
so make me, mold me, shape me into the perfect thing that you created me to be.
In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.