Catholic Meditations

Meditation: Matthew 5:43-48

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1st Week of Lent

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Maybe this isn’t the verse that we would have chosen to reflect on today. According to the dictionary, perfect means “entirely without flaw or defect … meeting supreme standards of excellence … satisfying all requirements.” To which many of us would respond: Really, Lord? I’m struggling just to keep one little Lenten resolution! I’ll never be perfect, no matter how hard I try.

One reason that perfection can seem so unattainable is that it sounds like an either-or proposition: you’re either perfect or imperfect. But as Scripture scholars point out, the Greek word translated as “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 carries a more dynamic meaning. It indicates something you grow into—a process of becoming whole and complete. From this perspective, we can imagine Jesus saying, “Keep moving forward! Keep working on becoming the person I created you to be. Don’t settle for anything less than the holiness of wholeness!” It may seem ironic, but it’s true: the more you become the unique person God made you to be, the more you will resemble Jesus, the perfect One.

So how do you grow into this perfection? Self-improvement programs won’t produce the change, and neither will piling on Lenten disciplines and spiritual calisthenics. It comes as you try your best to use your talents and gifts in a way that glorifies the Lord and lifts up the people around you. It comes as you focus on one or two roadblocks in your life: an unresolved resentment, an unhealthy habit, or a skewed way of thinking about life. Look for the things that keep you from becoming the person you know you can become.

Today, ask the Lord how he wants you to grow and change. Let him shine the light of his love on your heart. Let him show you both the person you’re meant to be and the person you are right now. Then come up with one or two things you can do to help bridge the gap between these two visions.

Blessed John Henry Newman once said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” As you seek to hear and follow Jesus, may you change—and often—throughout this Lenten season!

“Lord Jesus, although it seems incredible, I believe that you are leading me to wholeness and holiness!”

Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8

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