"BE PERFECT AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT."
A district minister arrived one Sunday morning in a small rural town. The local minister asked the district minister to help with a local problem.
"Everyone here thinks they are just perfect!" said the local minister. "Could you preach a sermon that will bring them back to their senses?"
The district minister was a gifted speaker, eloquent with words and knowledgeable about the Scripture. He spoke for nearly an hour, convincing everyone that they too were sinners. Finally, the district minister was sure he had set everyone straight.
To reaffirm that they were all thinking alike, the district minister finally asked: "Is there anyone here who thinks they are perfect?"
Everyone was looking at the floor, thinking quietly. Slowly, one man in the back stood up.
The district minister asked the man, "And why do you stand, sir?"
The man said, "I am not perfect, but I am standing in memory of my wife's first husband who was."
In today’s Gospel, Jesus strongly exhorts his disciples to “Be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect!” In other words, he can also directly say, “Be perfect as I AM perfect!” since he also said, that the Father and Him are ONE! Hearing this from Jesus Himself would not stir any problem as it is the TRUTH. Imagine, however, if the President of the US or any person in power for that matter would say to his/her subordinates the same words Christ said “Be perfect because I am perfect.” It would sound a bit ridiculous, right? But why is it any different from Christ? Because for one, He truly is PERFECT and there’s no doubt about that; and second of all, the people to whom he requires perfection are truly his own as they received their being, their existence and their capacity to act from Him.
But the question still stands, what is perfection, or to be perfect in the eyes of God? The world seems to give us a very distorted understanding of what perfection is. To be perfect, is to have a perfect physical figure as viewed on television; to be perfect is to be materially rich and to have all worldly possession; to be perfect is to be in power to the point of even undermining the voice of the people, the voice of the common good! To be perfect is to be able to retaliate violently, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” But no! For God the acid test, the gauge of perfection is found in our three readings this Sunday which could be summed up in loving one’s neighbors:
1. In Leviticus – First Reading. The first reading underscores perfection by not entertaining anger more than the necessary time; cease from hating or taking revenge; and love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. In other words, it is kindness over vengeance as the person who may have hurt you is in great difficulty far worse than what you are bearing. In the Philippines, we have the saying, “Kapag binato ka ng baton ng yong kaaway, batuhin mo sya ng tinapay.”[If your enemy throw stones on you, throw them back not with stones, but with bread]
2. In the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians – Second Reading. In his letter, Paul unveils the shallowness of those Christians who, under the guise of love, boast of enjoying the favor of a person, a teacher or a preacher maybe at the exclusion of others, who in fact belongs to us as we belong to Christ and Christ to God. Christ remains the true source of love and not anyone nor anything in this world. Christ offers us tremendous opportunities to love God and our neighbor.
3. Finally, in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus carries holiness or love of neighbor to its perfection. Just as the Father lets the sunshine or rain fall on both the good men and the bad, the sinner and the saint; so must a Christian love not only his neighbor but also his enemy.
Final Remarks: Human as we are, it seems a difficult task to strive for perfection. One thing that we should understand is that when we strive for perfection, we NEVER in any way disregard our IMPERFECTIONS. Our imperfections are part of us but we are called not to deny these imperfections but rather to own them as they become our own strengths. As St. Paul would put it, “It is when I am powerless/imperfect that I am strong.” More importantly, "Loving is not finding the perfect person but loving the imperfect person perfectly."