3 April, Sunday — Perfectionist or Perfection?

5th Sunday of Lent

Isa 43:16-21
Phi 3:8-14

Jn 8:1-11

I am no longer trying for perfection by own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ

Perfection, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, ‘is the condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects’. Then a perfectionist is someone who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.  

What an interesting concept. We all seek for perfection in all manner, just to varying degrees. Whether we are planning for our next vacation or buying an apple from the grocery store, we want things to go according to plan or without any blemish. We aim and try to attain perfection in our life. We rely on the rules and regulations, society and humanity to provide, to protect and to guide us. What if we fail to attain our aim? What if those regulations or people fail or mislead us? Does that not cause us great anxiety?

Let’s look at the definition of perfection again. The condition of being free or as free as possible from flaws or defects. I don’t know about you, but I know that I am broken, probably most, if not all of humanity, is broken in one way or another. So how can perfection come out of brokenness? That is utterly impossible. The concept of concupiscence in Christianity means that as human beings, we have the tendency to sin, or to be flawed. Therefore, relying on our own efforts or anything created by man, to attain perfection is madness.  

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we shouldn’t strive to become better or to be ‘perfect’. In fact, in Matthew 5:48, Christ has called us to “Be perfect, therefore, as our heavenly Father is perfect.” What He didn’t tell us to do is to try to be perfect on our own, because He knows that it is impossible without His help and the Father’s grace.    

Another way of looking at perfection in a worldly sense is the inconsistency or fickleness of the world’s ideal or perfection. Take, for example, the beauty or fashion scene. One year, thin eyebrows are most desirable, the next year, bushy eyebrows are in. Skinny pants are in one year, then bell bottoms are the next big thing (heavens know why for this one). There is simply no consistency and permanence. Transfer this pattern to life issues like abortion and euthanasia. We all acknowledge killing is bad, but the lawmakers say it is ‘ok’ and acceptable to kill babies, old and sick people. How does one strive for perfection in an ever-fickle world that doesn’t really understand or know the truth among all the brokenness?  

Thank God we don’t have to. Jesus called us to be perfect just like our Heavenly Father is perfect. That is, indeed, a tall order. But He doesn’t give us this enormous expectation without help. That’s why there are the seven Sacraments, the Bible, the Church, the community of like-minded (not perfect) people and, most importantly, a personal relationship with our Lord. He is ever loving, ever merciful, ever patient, ever forgiving, ever constant and ever perfect.

Jesus is our way to true perfection. Not the fake perfection that is fleeting, but a perfection that is everlasting. I think I am just beginning to understand what St. Paul means by perfection – in Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord of perfection, please help us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. In our weakness, we cannot attain perfection without Your help and grace. Grant us the wisdom to understand what true perfection looks like. Particularly during this Lenten season, help us to see our brokenness, repent our sins and return to You.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for being ever constant, ever perfect and merciful. Thank you for giving Jesus to us, for the redemption of the world.

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