Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

2/23/2014 (7 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

To be perfect is to become like God

To be perfect is both a command and a promise. We become perfect in becoming like God.  Such a sublime gift is made possible by the Son of God who became man, that we may be justified before God, that we may receive the Spirit of God, that we may share in the divine life of God. Yet while God does the divine work, we must do the human work by following Jesus Christ who commands us to live a life of authentic, Christian discipleship and love.

Highlights

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/23/2014 (7 months ago)

Published in Daily Homilies

Keywords: perfection, Jesus commands, commandments, love, Christian discipleship, Deacon F. K. Bartels


GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online)--Someone once said that the great danger to Christians is not failure but success at things that don't really matter. You may know all about botany, music, art, history, aerodynamics, math, electronics, politics, hobbies and so forth, but what do you know about God? Are you a successful Christian?

The beautiful thing about God, is he does not require of us magnificent accomplishments. He does not insist upon worldly success, but rather that we remain faithful. Our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to be successful at things that truly matter: he wants us to be his friends, to follow him by taking up our cross, and to live our lives as he did. Jesus wants us to give ourselves over to him, which is indeed a way of life involving our thoughts, deeds and words, and even the deeply held secrets of our hearts.

The subject of our gospel this Sunday (Mt 5:38-48) is about being an authentic Christian success; it is about living as a true follower of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, while it is about these things, it is also about more than that. It is about becoming perfect; it is about becoming like God. To be like God is to be perfect.

In our Gospel, Jesus Christ gives us five commands. These include turning the other cheek, which is a proscription against retaliation and the desire for vengeance (Mt 5:39); going beyond what someone asks of us, which is to be generous as Christ was generous (5:40-41); to give aid to those in need (5:42); to love and pray for our enemies (5:44); and to "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (5:48).

When we listen to these commands, we face two dangers, each of which can prevent us from taking the words of our Lord and Savior seriously and thus hinder our compliance with his desire for us. First, given our human weaknesses, it can seem as if these commands are impossible to meet, as if they are challenges far beyond the capabilities of the human person. Second, some people would say that Jesus was using hyperbole, exaggerating for effect. And if Jesus was exaggerating, then these commands are not really that serious, not really commands at all but merely helpful suggestions.

But they really are commands and Jesus is not exaggerating. So, it is important to avoid two extremes: on the one hand, thinking these commands are impossible, and on the other, dismissing them as lofty ideas that Jesus did not really mean as commands.

Meekness

Let us take a little closer look at these commands of Jesus. What about "turn the other cheek?" Jesus tells us to offer no resistance to one who is evil. This commandment is often a source of misunderstanding. We can be under the impression that perhaps Jesus is teaching us to refrain from protecting ourselves from physical aggression or abuse or attack. However, Jesus is not issuing an absolute prohibition against self-defense.

The commandment to turn the other cheek is not meant to give license to injustice or violence. What Jesus is really getting at here, is that we are not to retaliate or seek vengeance. Love, meekness, and mercy is to govern our thoughts and actions. We are not to return evil for evil. If someone speaks an unkind word, we should not strike back. If someone has done wrong to you, forgive them. Return good for evil. That is what Christ did.

Generosity

Next, Jesus commands us to "go the extra mile." If someone presses us into service for one mile, go for two. This commandment can be defined as generosity. Our Lord Jesus was generous to the point of death, death on a Roman cross. So too should we be generous, even to those we dislike, even to those who treat us unfairly, even to those who we would call enemies.

Return Good for Evil

The third commandment we heard from our Lord today is to "love one's enemies." This is often viewed as one of the most challenging elements of today's gospel with which to comply. How are we suppose to love our enemies?

First, let's look at what loving our enemies does not mean. It does not mean you must forget the wrongs you have suffered. That is, forgiveness is not dependent upon forgetfulness. Yes, we must forgive, but it is against our human nature to forget. There is no requirement to erase your memory. Further, it does not mean we ignore all injustices or that every crime should go unpunished. Ignoring evil as if there are no consequences is not helpful. Loving one's enemies does not equate to permissiveness.

Jesus really gets to the heart of what he means by love of enemies when he tells us to pray for our enemies. In praying for our enemies, we become like Jesus, who prayed for those who crucified him: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34). In praying for your enemies, you will soon find they can become channels of God's grace.

What Jesus is really getting at here is to replace hate with love. He's teaching us about divine love; he's teaching us to be like God. He's showing us how to become children of God. To truly love means to seek the true and authentic good of another, even our enemies.

Be Like God

The fourth command Jesus gives us is to "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." One of the first things that comes to mind is, how can I possibly be perfect like God is perfect? I'm only human! I'm a sinner! Is this, then, an impossible command?

Consider the word perfect. The Greek word for "perfect" the New Testament authors chose to use is the word "teleios," which has to do with attaining one's potential, one's purpose, one's end goal. The end goal of your life is to become like God and enjoy eternal communion with him. In a word, God is your end. Yet such an end is beyond your human capability. No one can snap their fingers and become like God; no one can share in the divine nature of God through any good work or by merely thinking about God or engaging in some type of spiritual endeavor. We can only become like God if God himself wills it, allows it, makes it a reality.

The
Catechism of the Catholic Church lists a number of reasons why the Son of God became man. One of those reasons is in order that men might become like God (see CCC 460). St. Athanasius put it this way: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."

In the First Letter of John we read: "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (3:2).

The point is, it is God who makes you like himself in virtue of his own free gift. It is God who makes you perfect. In virtue of the sacrament of baptism, you are assimilated into Christ, incorporated into the Church, given the gift of the Holy Spirit and made a member of the divine family. In virtue of baptism, you share in the life of God.

Further, in receiving the Eucharist you are made like Christ as you receive his body, blood, soul and divinity-as you receive his divine life. In consuming the Risen Lord at the paschal banquet, you are made into him who you receive. The gift of the Eucharist, 
won at the cost of the death of our Savior, is the gift Christ gives of himself to you in order for you to become one with him and share his divine life. (See John 6).

To be perfect also means you must strive to develop your full potential according to the will of God. You must earnestly labor to do what is humanly possible in order to attain such an end. This means, then, that you must follow the commands of Christ. Rather than retaliate, love; instead of shirking a task or request, act with true generosity; give of yourself to those in need as did Christ; love and pray for your enemies as did the Savior of humanity on the cross.

Give yourself entirely to Christ, as he gave himself entirely to you; for while God does the divine work, you must for your part do the human work.

Live the sacramental life in the heart of the Church, in full communion with the Bride of Christ, that you may share in the divine life of God and be perfect.

To be perfect, then, is both a command and a promise.

-----

Deacon Fred Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the diocese of Pueblo. He believes that the gift of his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at
joyintruth.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Daily Homilies

Friday, October 24 - Homily: The Great Sacrifice of Mass

Image of Fr. Elias on the large number of Catholics who do not go to Church and how this is a result of people not appreciating the importance of Mass

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fr. Elias on the large number of Catholics who do not go to Church and how this is a result of people not appreciating the importance of Mass as the unbloody re-presentation of Calvary, the great sacrifice of the Son of God for the removal of our sins, which ... continue reading


Thursday, October 23 - Homily: How to Die in Peace and Joy Watch

Image of Fr. Ignatius explains that we must be ready for death at any moment by living a life of virtue, in imitation of the saints who looked forward to the end of their lives in profound peace and heavenly joy.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fr. Ignatius explains that we must be ready for death at any moment by living a life of virtue, in imitation of the saints who looked forward to the end of their lives in profound peace and heavenly joy. continue reading


Wednesday, October 22 - Homily: St. Peter of Alcantara, Penitent Watch

Image of Fr. Elias on the life of St. Peter of Alcantara, a Franciscan, who lived a life of extraordinary penance.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fr. Elias on the life of St. Peter of Alcantara, a Franciscan, who lived a life of extraordinary penance.  He contrasts this spirit of penance for the love of God with the modern materialism which is based on love of self. continue reading


Tuesday, October 21 - Homily: Fighting Hate with Grace Watch

Image of Fr. Joachim on the life of Bl. Josephine Leroux, virgin and martyr during the French Revolution. She was condemned to death for the horrible crime of being a Poor Claire nun. Listen how in contrast to the radical hate of the atheists, she returned kindness and graciousness.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fr. Joachim on the life of Bl. Josephine Leroux, virgin and martyr during the French Revolution. She was condemned to death for the horrible crime of being a Poor Claire nun. Listen how in contrast to the radical hate of the atheists, she returned kindness and ... continue reading


Monday, October 20 - Homily: From Death to Life Watch

Image of Through the riches of God's mercy, we have passed from death (mortal sin) to life (sanctifying grace).

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Through the riches of God's mercy, we have passed from death (mortal sin) to life (sanctifying grace). continue reading


Thursday, October 16 - Homily: St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Watch

Image of May she teach us, and obtain for us the grace, to love the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as we ought, as He deserves, and as He desires.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

May she teach us, and obtain for us the grace, to love the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as we ought, as He deserves, and as He desires. continue reading


Wednesday, October 15 - Homily: St. Teresa of Avila Watch

Image of St. Teresa, Doctor of the Church, teaches us to pray and hope.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

St. Teresa, Doctor of the Church, teaches us to pray and hope. continue reading


Tuesday, October 14 - Homily: Faith and Love v. Law Watch

Image of Based on the first reading from Paul, Fr. Joachim preaches on the need to be justified by faith and love rather than follow the minutia of the law whether it be the Jewish Law or even the Catholic Law. Without love of God and neighbor and faith, we will not be saved.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Based on the first reading from Paul, Fr. Joachim preaches on the need to be justified by faith and love rather than follow the minutia of the law whether it be the Jewish Law or even the Catholic Law. Without love of God and neighbor and faith, we will not be saved. continue reading


Friday, October 10 - Homily: St. Daniel & Companions Watch

Image of When love for neighbor reaches a heroic degree, one does all he can to bring souls to faith and baptism, even at the cost of great sacrifice.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

When love for neighbor reaches a heroic degree, one does all he can to bring souls to faith and baptism, even at the cost of great sacrifice. continue reading


Thursday, October 9 - Homily - Fr. Dominic: The Virtue of Obedience Watch

Image of In today's Gospel a woman publicly praises Jesus' mother and He seems to deflect it. Fr. Dominic explains this is not and instead praises her obedience. Father exhorts us to strive for greater and greater obedience in imitation of Mary.

By Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In today's Gospel a woman publicly praises Jesus' mother and He seems to deflect it. Fr. Dominic explains this is not and instead praises her obedience. Father exhorts us to strive for greater and greater obedience in imitation of Mary. continue reading


All Daily Homilies News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2014 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. Chrysanthus was an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter