Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
February 23th, 2014
Year A

I wonder how many of you would consider yourselves to be perfectionists? I tend to be with regard to certain things. I like when things run smooth, I like schedules, and I like order. Call it what you will, I like to call it being somewhat particular. Yet, what does it mean to be a perfectionist? As an adjective, the word ‘perfect’ means to be as good as it is possible to be. Some of the synonyms for perfect are: faultless, flawless, quintessential, exemplary, best, etc. Now, hearing Jesus use this word and reflecting on it’s meaning, in this sense, can be quite debilitating. Who could ever possibly be faultless or flawless in the eyes of God – except the saints in heaven? And isn’t true too that since no one person is perfect that many people just don’t even attempt to try. Why bother, is their excuse. Yet, there is another meaning of the word ‘perfect’ we could examine. When used as a verb it means to make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible. This is interesting because when used in this sense one recognizes that he or she is striving for something, there is a goal in mind.

This second meaning is very significant when we consider it in relation to what Jesus is saying in the Gospel. He says: “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Here, He uses the Greek term ‘téleios’ which derives from the word ‘telos’. It is a word that is goal-oriented, to bring something to its final end, to bring to completion. If we think about the second definition of ‘perfect’ and the way in which Jesus uses it in St. Matthew’s Gospel, all of a sudden, it makes sense. It is a statement that sums up all the examples that He has given in this long section of Matthew’s Gospel. What is He saying? In the Old Testament, Israel was called to imitate God in His holiness – as He says to Moses: “be holy for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” It was interpreted by first century Christians as a call to separate oneself from all that is unholy. Thus, Jesus calls His disciples to be holy, to be perfect by imitating the holiness of God in perfect love. This is a love not tainted by sin – by anger, or lust, it remains committed to one’s marriage and to a person’s word, and seeks what is best for one’s enemies. He is saying that perfection is the goal, that we care called to reach true human fulfillment, to bring our lives to completion by orienting ourselves toward God – as St. Augustine so beautifully notes: we were not only made for God, we were made toward Him. The Christian life, therefore, is seen as movement toward becoming perfect, becoming fully who we have been created to be – whole, complete, one with God in His own completeness.

It is entirely impossible to be perfect without God, without union with Him. This is why Jesus uses the term perfect as a goal to be reached. Since this is true, Jesuit Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure comments, then we must use every opportunity, every necessary diligence to acquire it. He states that:

“Since we are human beings in the image of our Creator, let us cast our eyes on the image which is within us, and return, like the prodigal child, to him from whom our sins have separated us” (The Spiritual Man: Or the Spiritual Life Reduced to its First Principles).

Even though we realize that we fall short of this perfection, this holiness of God, Jesus is telling us that because of His love it is all worth it. It is something worth striving for and acquiring. Father Jean Baptiste, in this quote, helps us to keep that goal in mind. By looking for and perceiving the image of God that is within us – by seeing what God sees in us, we can then move forward. For God sees in us the person He calls us to be – whole, complete, free, united to Him – if we can see that person, we can separate ourselves from our sins and reach that goal of perfection. This is not a recommendation. This is a commandment. The Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium highlights this fact:

“The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of which he is the author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without distinction… It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society” (LG, n. 40).

What, then is the end for which we seek in life? For that is the basis of teleology – the philosophical study of end causes. What is the final end of our faith? Perfection - ‘téleios. What is the final end for which we seek? What is the goal of my life? He calls us to be holy, to union with Him. In this sense, we are indeed, called to be perfectionists.



















Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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