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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: June 15, 2015
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass for the opening of the General Chapter for Olivetan Benedictines at Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro on Monday, June 15, 2015.
Do you remember the old TV show "Mission Impossible?" Well in today's Gospel Jesus gives his disciples an assignment which seems like a mission impossible. This is part of a larger passage which will conclude tomorrow with Jesus saying: "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." I think this is a very appropriate challenge for you sisters as you begin your general chapter next week. What is Jesus saying to us here?
Well first notice that the original word in this passage has a different nuance from the English word "perfect," which for us means "flawless." In Greek, however, "perfect" doesn't mean "flawless," it means "complete" — perfect in the sense of having reached one's highest potential. So Jesus is not saying he expects us to be flawless — good thing! But he does expect us to have the goal of becoming everything that God intends us to be, which is the same as saying that we ought to become what our heavenly Father is: Perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
But that's impossible. In this life we will always be less than we ought to be, but that should not disturb us. The truth is that most worth-while goals are in fact unattainable, for instance becoming holy. The process of growing in holiness began in the homes you were raised in, continued through novitiate and all the years of your life as a consecrated nun, but it is a process of ongoing conversion that never ends.
When Jesus said, "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," he gave us an assignment that is impossible, but his intention was to challenge us, not discourage us.
It is a sad thing to see a sister who has stopped growing in the Lord. When Jesus said, "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," he gave us an assignment that is impossible, but his intention was to challenge us, not discourage us.
When applied to our daily lives, we see that the greatest challenges we face on the path of holiness are in the area of human relationships, including with fellow sisters. Jesus told his disciples in today's Gospel to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, offer no resistance to injury ... and their reaction to all of this was probably the same as ours. They probably thought: "This is beautiful, but it's not realistic. Not in today's world!"
And yet it is precisely here that the world needs what you sisters have to offer. We need you to be a community where every sister loves like God loves, a community in which every one of you strives to become everything God intends you to be, perfect in that sense, loving like God loves.
And how does God love? Tomorrow's Gospel gives us the answer. The sun shines and the rain falls on saints and sinners alike ... and God's love is like that. He doesn't love selectively and neither should we. He doesn't bestow favors on his favorites and withhold it from those who are undeserving ... not even from those who treat him badly. Like us, he might not like certain behaviors because it hurts him to see people hurting themselves and others, but that doesn't change the fact that he loves everyone equally, and indeed infinitely because his love is infinite.
If we are going to "be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect," we must love like he does. We must push back our circle of love until it includes everyone — especially those who are not nice to us in return. That's the Gospel. That's the heart of the faith. Anything less is less than fully Christian ... and sisters, our world needs your witness of self-sacrificing love more today than ever before!