You Will Be Perfect

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.

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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.

Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock

Today is the optional memorial of St. John the first, pope and martyr.  He was the Pope from about 523 until his death in 526.  During his papacy, Emperor Justin was forcing the Arians of Constantinople to convert to Catholicism and to hand over their churches.  The Arian King of Italy, Theodoric, asked the Pope to order the Emperor to stop the harsh punishment of the Arians.  Justin decided to give the churches back to the Arians, but he would not let the forced converts go back to their old ways.  When Pope John came back, Theodoric was enraged, and imprisoned the Pope for his failure.  Due to his long journey and maltreatment in prison, the Pope died shortly after being placed in his cell.  He was immediately honored as a martyr by the Church, and his body was taken to be buried in Rome.

Anyway, there are two sets of readings to honor this saint.  The first is the standard readings for the 7th Week of Easter, and the other comes from the proper of the saints.  The first reading for the latter option comes from Revelation 3:14, 20-22 :

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Most of us are probably familiar with this scene.  Jesus is wanting you to let him into your heart etc.  There is a famous painting made from this passage by William Holman Hunt called “The Light of the World”.  Take a few moments to study this carefully.

Hunt_Light_of_the_WorldIt’s called the Light of the World probably because the only source of light you can see is from Jesus and his lamp.  The rest of his surrounding look nasty and dangerous.  The kind of stuff scary stories take place in.  “It was a dark and stormy night when Jesus came for a visit”.  There are thorn bushes and weird trees.  The sky is a sickly green.  Even the cottage has vines of all of it.  Speaking of the house, have you noticed anything a little strange about it?  Maybe on the door perhaps?  If you guessed that there’s no door knob, you’d be correct.  At least, there’s no knob on the outside.  You have to be the one to let Jesus in.  Now on to the lantern.  To me, it looks a lot like the dome of a Church.  It even appears to have little stained-glass windows on it.  I wonder what that might mean?  Maybe that without the church, it would be next to impossible to even see Jesus coming, much less let him in.  You might not even know that He existed.

Jesus appears to be wearing some pretty fancy clothes.  I mean, he has a crown on, one of those cool silk robes.  He even has a cape!  I don’t think a farmer would put on those kinds of clothes to go visit someone in the bad part of the woods.  He’s the prince who has come to bring you back to the kingdom.  He’s come to save you.  All you have to do is open the door.

The psalm for today is the every famous psalm 23: The Good Shepherd.  One of the things I always notice is “He makes me lie down in green pastures”.  Usually a shepherd will guide his flock to a nice shady place with lots of grass where they can eat and rest.  One of the things I think is “But I don’t want to lie down”.  I don’t like laying down in grass.  My body gets really itchy and my clothes get stained.  Sometimes I like sitting down in the grass though.  It can be nice at times.  When you have a glass of lemonade and the breeze is blowing in your face.  Again, sometimes it annoys the living daylights out of me.  I think this applies to my life, especially in certain areas like prayer or going to church.  Sometimes I enjoy Mass.  Father’s homily might be short and sweet, but have a special meaning for me.  As a long-time altar server, the Mass might go perfectly without any mess-ups.  At other times, Mass might not be that fun.  Father might have taken about an hour on his homily and not be even that meaningful.  All the other altar servers might be the kind of kids who kick the bells, or hit the priest in the face when they try to bless him with the incensor.  I might have had a really bad day, or all 6 of my little siblings might have screamed the entire ride there.  As far as prayer goes,

10940474_779990425382860_7356585953079381231_n1I make myself do my prayers, but I seldom actually pray, if you know what I mean.  Anyway, getting back to the analogy, sometimes I don’t want to lay in green pastures.  It’s good for me and I need the nourishment, but sometimes it’s boring or stressful.  But I do it because I know I need to.  I mean, I don’t think grass tastes that good, even to sheep it can’t compare to a steak.  But Jesus wants me to, and that’s goo enough for me.  The rest of the psalm is really nice too.  “And Goodness and Mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life”.  Inspiring Stuff.

Well, I just wanted to end asking if you have ever noticed that the Shrine of the Sacred Heart looks just like R2-D2?

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Well, that’s it for today.  I hope you all hear Jesus knocking at your door today, and for the rest of your lives.  God Bless!