When we think of commandments of God, we always think of the top ten: I am the Lord thy God, Thou shalt have no other gods, Thou shalt not kill, steal, covet, etc. The Jews considered these to be the first ten of 613 commandments – laws – that can be found in the Old Testament. To break any of them was a sin and required that some sort of offering be made for atonement, anything from sacrificing a bull to waving a sheaf of grain.
Jesus, in his teachings, summed up the law for us when he said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” These are also commandments, and for us, just as important as that Top Ten list found in the Old Testament.
In our Gospel reading today, we have another commandment. It was the last sentence, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus has commanded us to be perfect. Can I get a show of hands from those who have reached perfection? Anybody? Here is the kicker, if it is commanded – it is possible. Be perfect – it is commanded by God, therefore it is possible. To say that it is not is to be disobedient to the command. So, what’s it going to be?
Would you believe me if I said that you are perfect? The truth is: You are. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” For by one sacrifice – that is Christ death upon the Cross – he has made perfect forever those – that would be you – who are being made holy.
Through Christ, you have been made perfect, but note what Paul also said, “who are being made holy.” You are perfect and you are being made holy. St. Francis de Sale summed this up when he said that we are “Perfection seeking perfection.” We are made perfect in Christ and each day, we seek to be made more perfect.
You may not believe this and believe me, you wouldn’t be the first, but be encouraged. Think of it this way, expressed by St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, “Cast away that despair produced by the realization of your weakness. It’s true: financially you are a zero, and socially another zero, and another in virtues, and another in talent… But to the left of those zeros is Christ… And what an immeasurable figure it turns out to be!”
You may not believe that being perfect is possible, but you are perfect. You are made perfect because Christ died for you and is in you. You are perfect. Your job as a follower of Christ is to seek to be made more perfect. How do we do this? My good friend Thomas a Kempis said, “If we were to uproot only one vice each year, we should soon become perfect.” Perhaps today, though, we’ll stick with the words of Jesus, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Most hear that verse and think of the cross they must bear and they are correct, but don’t miss that one important word “daily.” To seek to me made more perfect in Christ is not something we practice only on Sunday. It is a daily exercise.
You are perfect. Seek to be made more perfect.