You must be perfect — just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Mt 5:48)
What is Jesus asking us to do? Can we do that?
Reading what comes before this statement makes Jesus’ command even more frightening. Jesus gives details. This is where the "turning the other cheek" business got into the Bible, and the "walking the extra mile" notion. It seems we are not just called to be better than we are; we are called to be saints (#1695). Where is there room for human failure and frailty? Does God really think we are going to pull this off?
Well…no…God has seen our work and has not left our sainthood up to us (#1695). Life in Christ is not possible because we try to live a good life. If we were doing that well on our own, what would be the grace of God sent to accomplish? Life in Christ is made possible because of Christ.
God has created us in His image (#1702)! We cannot fulfill the life we were created to live if we settle for anything less (#30). If we love God, we will be able to find meaning and dignity in life.
Here another temptation arrives. Let’s say we buy this message. Do we have to face a life of boredom? Have you seen some of these religious types? They look funny; they talk funny; they have no "fun". Can we call such a life "living"?
Consider the whole person, Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed as Christ (#464). Was he boring? Was he holier-than-thou? On a regular basis, the gospels describe him in arguments with people who wanted to substitute religious piety for holiness. What kind of person could attract the constant companionship of fishermen, tax agents, and hookers? These were "common" folks, the kind with a strong nose for phoniness, yet they gave up their lives to follow Jesus.
Too often theology emphasizes the divinity of Jesus at the expense of his humanity. If we can accept that Jesus is God, can we also believe that Jesus cried, sweat, cursed (Mt 21:18-19), laughed, drank, ate, questioned God (Mt 27:46)? Do we dare admit a very human Jesus did these very human actions?
If we "protect" the divine in Jesus Christ by rejecting the human, we have misunderstood the gospel (#469). Go back to the early centuries of Christianity. See how they probed, questioned, fought, and prayed to deepen their understanding of these same questions. We are in good company, struggling to understand how Christ could be both God and man. The great creeds are the result of our predecessors’ struggles to bring this faith into words (#464-469)
We do not — we
cannot — become less human (or boring) if we accept the challenge of holiness,
the call of God to be perfect (#1216). We take up the call to be fully human
if we take up the call of Christ (#1691). That call, internally and externally,
is an issue of passion — the kind we think of when we use the word to describe
what Jesus went through; the kind that describes the myriad of emotions we glimpse
in the passions of art, music, athletics, work, love-making (#1762). The incredible
paradox is that this call to be god-like, to subject ourselves to grace of immortality,
is a call to freedom (#1731-1732,1742).