Today’s gospel reading take me back to the visit of Pope (Saint) John Paul to Christchurch in 1986. It was this gospel that I as a newly ordained priest read at that Mass. Until this moment the day had been bright and sunny, but as the gospel was read “God causes his rain to fall on honest and dishonest people alike” the heavens opened for a remarkable downpour leaving the majority of the Lancaster Park crowd drenched. But then the sun took over again as though nothing had happened and we quickly dried out forgetting the rain and continuing the Mass.
Many people had spent months planning every detail of the outdoor Mass. A rain-storm was not a part of their perfect planning picture. As the gospel reading finished and the pope was ready to begin his homily he casually commented “I see Christchurch has put on special weather for me today.”
Then in the his homily John Paul reflected on the gospel reading:
“Today in Christchurch, Jesus puts these words, this challenge to you and to me. The standard that is set before us is not merely to give to each one his due. The standard for the followers of Jesus Christ is “to be perfect” as God himself is perfect.”
Like the papal Mass planners, we all have our own idea of the perfect day, the perfect dinner, the perfect relationship or the perfect job. We make the mistake of measuring ourselves against the “perfection” that others seem to have achieved. The problem then is that we hold ourselves to these artificial and fickle standards. What we think is perfection is not really perfection at all. It’s certainly not the kind of perfection that Jesus speaks of.
This gospel reading concludes: “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Note that this perfection is not a human achievement, or found in perfect weather or in any other earthly perception of perfection. But the perfection we see in Jesus who is at home in the messy imperfection of human existence, turning tables and speaking impolite truth to respectable people.
I like the “good enough” term coined by British psychoanalyst in 1953, He eased the minds of many parents who feared they were not doing parenting perfectly enough by speaking of how important it was to have parents who were not perfect but who were “good enough!”
And then I was reminded at my uncle’s 90th birthday party last month of the priest who married my grandparents telling them at their 1927 wedding: “Do your best, and leave the rest to God.”
- Take that instruction of the priest as a mantra for the day, hearing Jesus say to you regularly throughout the day: “do your best, and leave the rest to me”