Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Adam Royal
February 22, 2020 – 5:00 PM
February 23, 2020 – 8:30 AM
“Be perfect.” What are we to do with a command like that? We’ve come to the end of a long week, filled with the ordinary, and perhaps extraordinary, struggles of life. We are tired, and we come to mass, hoping that Jesus will give us solace. We want just a few words of encouragement, a little dose of grace, to lift us up and help us face the world again. Then we hear this gospel, where Jesus says, in effect, “Your efforts aren’t good enough. Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Some may hear these words as a challenge and feel enlivened by them. But I suspect most of us listen to them and think, “Why bother,” perfection isn’t even on the horizon of our journey.
If we take Jesus’s words, “Be perfect,” as an absolute command, then we miss the point. The Lord isn’t demanding anything. He is calling us to open our hearts and reimagine our world. We so readily get stuck in the mindset that everything will always be the same that we become complacent. We forget that through grace, we have the power to change ourselves and the world.
What if our favorite team just gave up after a single loss, or in the case of the Chicago Cubs 108 years of losing? We wouldn’t be disappointed if they gave up; we would be angry. To give up undermines the purpose. Sports teach us to strive for excellence to strive for perfection. We don’t accept complacency in sports, and we cannot accept it in the faith either. Jesus is pushing us to perfection. Not the perfection of athletic prowess, but the perfection of charity, the fulfillment of love in our hearts. We can’t give up just because it is hard, or even seemingly impossible. Instead, we must strive all the more. We aren’t competing for a trophy that will tarnish with time; we are fighting for eternal life.
Just imagine life if we all strove to love in the same way we strive in sports, in school, or in our jobs. We would live in paradise. But, perhaps that is too much to ask. Maybe it is too difficult to imagine such a world. So let’s narrow the focus. What if everyone in our home strove for love? What if your children competed with one another to love the most if they competed to help one another, to clean up around the house, and show affection and gratitude? You might think this is a ridiculous idea, and you would be correct. It is absurd to think children would behave this way because children learn by example, and we haven’t shown them the way. And it is the same in every other area of our lives. So many people look at the message of Jesus and think, “That sure sounds great, but I’ve never seen it lived, and so I can’t believe it.”
We can change that. The message of Jesus, the world he offers us, is not a pie-in-the-sky or Pollyanna ideal meant to inspire us. Instead, it is the revelation of who we really are, of who God created us to be. Take all the effort we put into chasing more money, more stuff, more meaningless trophies, and honors. If we put even 1/10th of that effort into competing with one another in love, this world would be transformed, and we would know with confidence that the message of Jesus is possible. We simply have to desire the way of Jesus more than we want the world we have.