BEFORE THE CROSS | Jesus invites us to become perfect sons and daughters of God

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

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What's the standard by which we judge our lives? "I've never done anything horrible. I'm a decent human being." Very often it's something along those lines. Let me suggest, as we prepare to celebrate All Saints' Day, that we're using the wrong standard.

What's the right standard? Jesus gives it to us in the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are actually a portrait of Jesus, and an invitation to be like Him. That's why, along with the teachings that immediately follow them in Matthew 5, they end with the ringing challenge: "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

That's our standard. And the readings for the week reinforce this idea, both in terms of who we are and who we can be.

Who we are is something we hold by faith: We're beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The temptation around this is twofold. On the one hand, we can be inclined to think that we're too bad for God to love us. But the readings answer that temptation clearly. St. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." The First Letter of St. John echoes the point: "Beloved, we are God's children now." On the other hand, we can be inclined to think that we're too good to need God's love. The readings answer that temptation, too. In Romans 5, St. Paul says: "While we were still sinners Christ died for us ... [so] we boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." God's love – not our merit – is the source of our status as beloved sons and daughters.

Who we can be is something we hold in hope: we can become perfect sons and daughters of the Father. The temptation around this is also twofold. We can be inclined to think that we'll never reach the perfection of Heaven, so it isn't worth working on. Jesus answers this temptation clearly when He says "Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me." If, on the other hand, we're tempted to think that we're already good enough and don't need to work on anything, we can return to the Beatitudes and Jesus' call to be perfect. That will humble us, and answer any temptation to complacency.

The Father is perfect. The Son is the perfect image of the Father. The Holy Spirit is given so that we can be perfectly conformed to Jesus. On All Saints' Day, we celebrate those who have achieved this goal by cooperating with God's grace. As we celebrate them, let's also foster our faith and hope that we follow their path. 

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