Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Our Lord really gives us a tall order to fulfill in the final sentence of this Sunday’s Gospel. Does Jesus really want us to be “perfect?” What does it mean to be perfect like God is perfect?
The Church’s answer is that all Christians are called to the perfection of the saints. We all have what the Second Vatican Council called “a universal call to holiness.” Striving to be a saint is not reserved for some hermit monk in the desert subsisting on the Eucharist alone; we are ALL called to holiness, no matter our vocation or state in life. In one of his Wednesday audiences, Pope Francis commented on this teaching of the most recent ecumenical Council:
“[T]he call to holiness is not just for bishops, priests or religious … No. We are all called to become saints! So often, we are tempted to think that holiness is granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer. But it is not so! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face… No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gifts us. Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints. And everyone in the particular condition and state of life in which they find themselves…Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness…
At this point, each of us can examine our conscience, we can do it now, everyone answering for himself, inside, in silence: So far how have we responded to God’s call to holiness? But do I want to improve, to be a better Christian? This is the path to holiness. When the Lord calls us to be saints, he does not call us to something hard or sad… Not at all! It is an invitation to share His joy, to live and offer every moment of our lives with joy, at the same time making it a gift of love for the people around us. If we understand this, everything changes and takes on a new meaning, a beautiful meaning, to begin with the little everyday things.”
We should not afraid of this call to holiness! We are not alone in this journey! Jesus is not only the one who calls us to sanctity, but is the one who is by our side, who grants His graces through the sacraments He instituted and entrusted to the Church. We know we can become perfect, because Christ has told us we can, and He Himself has given us the resources we need to fulfill His call!