Chapter five of Matthew’s Gospel starts with Jesus going up a hill, sitting down and giving a brilliant teaching that we call “The Beatitudes.” The lessons do not stop with the last “Blessed be…” however; there’s much more in that chapter to be ingested.
The last line of today’s teaching is one that we have attempted to find a more kindly or reasonable translation to explain. “Be perfect,” says Jesus, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We’ve tried on many synonyms to dress that line in a more realistic way. “Be compassionate,” we say (my personal favorite) or “Be whole.” You may have found your own translations that make it possible to hear and live without cringing at the seeming impossibility of coming close to what Jesus was proposing.
This morning, as I began to ruminate on it once again, I heard inside my head: “Be a perfect Lois…” That was a total surprise but it now seems to me the closest to what Jesus was asking. It isn’t a question of becoming like anyone else here on earth in order to achieve the “perfection” of God (“for God?). We just need to be the best of ourselves — loving and forgiving and accepting ourselves, being and giving the best of ourselves from our waking to our sleeping. I’m fairly certain God rejoices in that every day.
That may be just the thing for a Lenten practice, starting on this coming Wednesday!