Categories: Pastor's Desk

Today’s Gospel is certainly a difficult one to stomach. We are told to turn the other cheek, give extra when someone asks something of us, to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and to be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.

I think that it is this idea of “being perfect” that causes us to struggle the most. We can easily look at these words and fall into a false notion that unless we do everything exactly right, we will fail to merit God’s love. Our desire to “be perfect” can cause us to think that our worth comes from our own actions, instead of from our faith in Christ. When we fall into the trap of perfectionism, we often set unreasonable standards for ourselves, which can result in anxiety, procrastination, fear of failure, and even damaged self-esteem, all because we fail to meet the unreasonable standards we have set for ourselves.

Perhaps a better way to understand this saying of Jesus is to look at our first reading, where this commandment is presented in a slightly different way. In the first reading, Moses instructs the Israelites to be holy, for the Lord God is holy. To be holy means that we strive to emulate the example that God has given us: an example which is beautifully described in our Responsorial Psalm. Psalm 103 is one of my favourites, because it speaks of the kindness and mercy of the Lord. It reminds us that he is slow to anger, that he pardons our sins, has compassion on his people, and puts our sins far away from us, “as far as the east is from the west.”

The moment that we recognize that we are loved by God, even in our weakness, is the moment that we begin to grow in holiness. It is in that moment that we create space to allow God’s grace to work in our lives, and to accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own. It is then that we realize that the process of becoming holy or perfected is just that: a process. It is something that we are called to work at throughout our lives, recognizing that there will be struggles along the way.

In many ways, these readings are perfect for us to consider as we prepare to begin the Season of Lent this week, with our celebration of Ash Wednesday. May this Lenten season be a time where we truly experience the mercy of God, and allow his grace to lead us to greater holiness, as we seek to turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel of Christ.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Steven Huber, CSB