Father Matt's Homily for February 23, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last week, if you were with me at Mass or read the bulletin, we received a challenging word from God about love. God calls
us to love everyone in response to His love for us. We were challenged that the measure of our love for God is found in how
well we love those who we love the least. I heard from a lot of you that this is a difficult and uncomfortable challenge.
Believe me, I know it well myself.
The Gospel this week is a continuation of the Matthean Antitheses, where Jesus calls us to something more. The challenge from Jesus continues. In fact, He seems even to up the ante a bit this week. “So be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
Come on, man! That’s not fair! God is God. We can’t be perfect like God. Can we?
Last week Jesus said, “Let your ’yes’ mean ’yes’ and your ’no’ mean ’no’.” He said what He said. So how do we deal with this?
First, let’s look at the word that is translated as “perfect”. The Greek word is teleios. This word is found in a number of places
in the New Testament. St. Paul uses it often. Most of the time, it is not translated as “perfect”. More often it is translated as
“fully mature” or “complete” or “brought to the finish or end”. Those translations are easier to grasp, but still, they convey the sense that we have much to strive for. Honestly, I like “perfect” better. But not if we think of perfect as something that is unattainable.
It’s too easy to give up on something like that. God doesn’t call us to things unattainable or impossible. But God does call us, again and again, to more than we think we are capable of. You know that yourself. If you don’t know it yet, you will. Let’s stick with “perfect” and trust that if we stick with God, perfect is possible.
The thing is, in some ways, I don’t want to be perfect. Imperfections are some of the best things about me and about other people! They make us unique and interesting. God, in calling us to be perfect, isn’t telling us that He wants us to be all the same.
But in calling us to be perfect, God is asking us to be the best us that we can be. God is calling us to be the person that He made us to be. That person is perfect in God’s eyes. That’s a nice thought and all, but still, Jesus is asking me to be perfect, even if that means just being perfectly me. I am not sure that I can do that and, honestly, people can use it as a cop out for being a jerk.
“Hey man, sorry if that offended you. I am who I am.” I don’t know if that is perfect. If you look at the rest of the Readings,
they really focus on our hearts, how our hearts look at us, our neighbor, and God. So maybe we need to go back to the heart
to better understand “perfect”.
One of my favorite movies is “Friday Night Lights.” It is a
true story about a high school football team in Odessa, TX.
From the moment the new coach arrives, he challenges
the boys to be perfect. Finally, in the state championship game,
with the team in a tough spot, with their backs against the wall,
Coach Gary Gaines explains what he means by perfect...
“Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye
and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them
the truth. And that truth is that you did everything you could.
There wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done.
Can you live in that moment, as best you can,
with clear eyes and love in your heart? With joy in your heart?
If you can do that, gentlemen, then you’re perfect.”
Jesus isn’t challenging us to do something impossible. He wouldn’t
do that. But He is challenging us to be perfect. To give everything
you have, to be not all about yourself. To give everything you have
to love others, especially those you love the least. To give everything
you have to become the person God created you to be. To give
everything you can to not be bitter or jealous or hold grudges.
To give everything you can so that you can look yourself in the mirror
at night and say “I have been the best follower and lover of Jesus that
I could be today.” To give everything, the best you can. If you can
do that, ladies and gentleman, then you’re perfect.
Peace and Love,