So, today’s readings are all about loving your enemy and praying for those who persecute you. I would you encourage you to visit the post I wrote about loving your enemy before moving on to this if you haven’t read it already. Since I don’t need to repeat what I’ve already written, I’ll be moving on to the equally important ending of today’s Gospel: Christ’s call for perfection.
“Humanum errare est”. To err is human. We all know this. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve and the birth of sin, we as a human race are very not perfect. We’re even bad, extremely bad at times. We can be, and often are, monsters.
Take a good look at yourself. Not just your body, your whole being. You’re weak. You’re corrupt. You can’t even keep yourself from eating that extra cookie when you’re trying to lose weight! What on God’s green earth could you possibly hope to ever accomplish? Eternal life? What a joke. How could you hope to follow Christ when you can barely follow traffic laws? Why, asking you to be perfect is like asking a caterpillar to fly. No, its like asking a caterpillar to fly a thousand miles, no THREE thousand miles. All while going 30 miles an hour. And look beautiful and dazzling the entire way. That’s insane. Only a madman would expect that out of a dang caterpillar. But yet Jesus tells us to be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.
Even the giants of the Old Testament fail God and His people. Moses doubted God and struck the stone twice instead of once as he was commanded. David committed adultery and murdered his friend. Jonah ran away. Whatshisface the son of Israel lied cheated his brother Esau out of his blessing, and Abraham did something wrong that is currently escaping my mind. Even St. Joseph sinned once (I think he got super angry once or something like that). Before his conversion, St Augustine was what you would call a teenage delinquent and a hedonistic party animal before he converted and became one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all time. St Thomas Becket was super wealthy and a scrooge who never gave to the poor before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury and a martyr. Before her conversion, St Olga obliterated an entire tribe and sold the few survivors into slavery. Her grandson, St Vladimir, gained power by killing his brother, had far too many wives, and sacrificed people at a pagan temple before being forever changed by the grace of baptism. St Phillip Howard had been a playboy and a gambler before being inspired by watching the heroic St Edmund Campion defend his faith in the Tower of London before Anglican ministers armed with books and assistants. St Phillip Howard reconciled himself with his wife, who converted with him. While trying to escape to the continent where they could practice Catholicism, they were captured. After 10 years of imprisonment, he died in the same tower Edmund Campion, his gateway to Christ, was imprisoned and interrogated before his martyrdom. But the point is, none of us are perfect (with the given exceptions of Jesus Christ and Mary). Yet here we have stories of how people, some like us, some far worse, followed the call of Christ, and became saints and heroes. A saint is the person who, through whatever struggle on Earth, at least achieved perfection with God in heaven. A saint is, by definition, perfect. We have concrete examples of how humans somehow became perfect, just as our Heavenly Father is perfect. It is achievable, even while it remains impossible, though not by ourselves. That is the power of God, to turn animals into Sons and Daughters of God. To make evil into good, to make sinners into saints, to make the impossible possible.
One week ago, a friar told me that if you look at the original text of this reading in whatever language it was, it doesn’t say “be perfect”. It says “you WILL be perfect”. God is promising you perfection. He is calling you to achieve with Him what you could never hope to do on your own. He is calling the caterpillar to fly. He is making a promise, one which He intends to keep, even if He has to die for you. And He did. That is the wondrous beauty of it. God became one of us. He reached down into a dark hole full of dirty water and snakes, and pulled out a turtle, that had fallen upside down, and could never get back up again without help*.
Do you know what’s interesting about caterpillars? Nothing. Nothing at all. They just crawl around and eat stuff (much like me). I guess some are kinda cute, but most are bland or just plain ugly. There’s this one caterpillar whose camouflage is bird poop (the one in the picture at the top). Yeah, really. That guy must have some serious trouble hanging out at parties (I’m sure St Augustine could give him a few tips). But you know something about caterpillars? They don’t stay that way forever. If they keep following the code of caterpillar law, and behave the way they’re supposed to (eat this, don’t eat that), they become something else entirely. And you know what? They FLY. Not only that, but thousands of miles, some known to go as fast as 30 miles an hour. And they are regarded as one of God’s most beautiful creations.
So, God today is promising you that you will be perfect, if only you follow his commands. God will transform you into something so wonderful, you could never hope to imagine it. Many of you are doubting me right now (heck, so am I). But everyone knows what’s going to happen to the caterpillar except who? The caterpillar. Just trust in God, and one day, one day you will be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect. God Bless.
In Christ, Catholic2theMax
PS, I borrowed the caterpillar analogy from a friar who gave a talk at a youth event last Saturday. Count on friars to be super cool.
* This actually happened to a friar. Before he became a religious, he was waling around in the woods (super outdoorsy guy), and he saw a hole. He couldn’t see what was in it, but typical dude (we’re not the brightest of the bunch sometimes), he decided to reach down into it and see what he found. What did he find? A turtle, laying on its shell, unable to get up. It would have died there, as it was incapable of doing anything by itself at that state. This inspired the man to become more religous, and eventually enter the Fransiscan order. And no, he does not still have the turtle.