“But I’m better than him at least.” Or sometimes, “I know I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not that bad.” Both in our First Reading and in our Gospel this Sunday, God presents us with one of His greatest challenges: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” And Jesus in the Gospel: “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Although we are called to love those around us, their holiness, or lack thereof, does not set the bar for our holiness — God’s holiness sets our bar!
Is this even possible, though? He never sinned and I already have. Too late for me, right? Let’s see. Every time we receive a Sacrament, we receive sanctifying grace and grace is God’s own life put within us. So when we receive grace, we receive God’s own perfect, holy, and sinless life that assimilates our own life and transforms it into His. So no, its never too late! Especially when we frequent the Sacrament of Confession. (Read that again if you didn’t get it — It’s important.)
On the most fundamental level, then, it’s definitely possible, but it is true that we don’t look and act like we’re perfect all the time. To remedy this, we are called to be imitators of Christ Jesus who became flesh to be an example for us (see CCC 459 and 1 Corinthians 11:1).
The greatest way we can imitate our Lord and saviour is by loving without limits. As St Teresa of Calcutta used to say: “Love isn’t love until it hurts.” Let us love until we have nothing else to give!
Of course, this is how Jesus made salvation possible for humanity — He loved us fully and we all know it really hurt! He never offered any physical resistance to evil (although He could have had twelve legions of angels to fight for Him). He gave His face to be struck multiple times and spat on. He allowed His clothes to be stripped away from Him making Him look like a sinful Adam in the Garden (although He never knew any shame). He painfully carried His Cross as His enemies forced Him on to Golgotha. And finally, on that Cross, He prayed for those who persecuted Him (see Matthew 26:53–54, 67; 27:28, 32; Luke 23:34). This is what love without limits looks like. And it was done for us. Shall we continue to spit at him?
In our lives, however, we probably won’t be presented with the same situations as Jesus. But we are called to respond with the same love and prayer for those who persecute us in more modern ways. Let us think about how we can allow ourselves to be persecuted instead of fighting back and perpetuating the evil (with a genuine smile on our face too!). Then, let us pray for those people and pray that they will open themselves to the light of Christ, as we strive to do everyday, and that one day they will be praying with us.
In this Sunday’s Psalm, we are reminded that God doesn’t deal with those who believe and live the life of His Son as He should deal with them: “He does not treat us according to our sins / nor repay us according to our faults.”
Remember that God loved us at our worst (see Romans 5:8). We have been bought with the blood of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 6:20) and He is now calling us back to His divine family. We belong to Jesus now. He has made us temples of the Holy Spirit, as St Paul says in this Sunday’s Second Reading, and God’s temple is always holy — Therefore be holy as He is holy.
Thanks be to Him we have been saved from unholiness. We have been saved from the inability to be holy. We can be holy. All we need do is live off the Sacraments (as much as humanly possible) and be imitators of Christ Jesus just like St Paul says he is. Then we shall be holy. This is what Sanctifying grace does to us. Holy in Latin is Sanctus — Therefore: Sanctifying (“holy-fying”) grace! Sanctifying grace is given to us in every one of the Sacraments.
Those who come to the Lord’s table to receive Him, in St Augustine’s words, “Shall become what they eat.” They shall become holy, because He is holy. They shall become perfect, because He is perfect.