I was struck by today’s three verse second reading (Heb 5:7-9) as the formula for perfection. Jesus famously says in the gospels:
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.Mt 5:48
This always seemed to me a high bar (the understatement of the year). An impossible goal? Would the Lord require this if it were not feasible? Or is it just a matter of Christ asking us to aim high so that we will do our level best knowing that we will fall short.
Leiva-Merikakis gives some helpful guidance here:
If we apply the literal Greek meaning of the word for “perfect”…we will see that what the command intends is, rather, ‘Guide your actions and attitudes by the same intention, the same finality, as your heavenly Father’s.’ Far from implying a head-breaking striving for the unattainable, we should rise from our immersion in the business of self-survival and focus our outlook from the divine point of view.Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), 241.
Certainly we know that we can do nothing good without grace. So we only hope to even approach this perfection with God’s help. Even so, it is a tremendous challenge to be a halfway decent person, much less spotless, in our day to day living as we strive to see through the lens of “the divine point of view.”
Here is where today’s reading from Hebrews helps us. How was Jesus made perfect? Through obedience in suffering. How did he approach suffering? “[H]e offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.” By doing so, “he was heard because of his reverence.”
Now, as God, Jesus was perfect. But the meaning of the word used here in Greek not only can mean “to perfect” but also “to complete.” Jesus, as the God-Man had a mission to accomplish and He did so through accepting the Paschal Mystery. Imagine the “loud cries and tears” in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was about to take all the sins of all time onto Himself — unfathomable to us mere finite beings.
We are asked to imitate the love and mercy of Christ — “the divine point of view.” We are to give ourselves to a life of prayer and supplication. We are to be reverent. This is the road to perfection mapped out by our Savior. Let us unceasingly ask for the graces to complete our mission just as Jesus did.