“Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
Umm, excuse me, sorry, I don’t think I heard you right, Jesus.
Haha yeah, you said be perfect. You didn’t mean perfect, you meant as good as you can be. Right?
Oh, you did say perfect?
Wait. I’m not perfect! I can’t be! That’s impossible. Original sin, fallen nature, remember? You must not be talking to me. Maybe you were just talking to Mary? Your sinless mother?
Oh…you are talking to me…
Well if you can’t tell, I always bristle at this Gospel line. I don’t like high standards. I like meeting easy, low standards on my time. For example, I like giving food to the homeless…on those few days when I have leftovers in the car that I don’t like. I like saying kind things to people…when I am in a good mood and they seem like they’ll respond well to it.
But that’s not what Jesus calls us to. He doesn’t call us to be just nice people, who do good things when it’s convenient. As He points out in today’s Gospel, you don’t have to believe in God to be nice and decent to people.
Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?” and “if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not pagans do the same?”
Perfect is a high bar, but if we aren’t spending our lives trying to meet that high bar, what makes us different from people who haven’t met Christ?
Let’s try this today. Offer up your morning coffee for your cousin who ignores you. Compliment the coworker who annoys you (no passive-aggressive backhanded compliments either, make it real). Bite your tongue from that hilarious but hurtful comeback you want to say to win the argument.
Choose the hard path today. It won’t make you perfect, but you’ll be one step closer to Perfection Himself.
Cecilia Pigg is the Managing Editor of The CatholicMatch Institute. She enjoys exploring new parks with her husband and son and does not enjoy loading the dishwasher.