Pursuit of Perfection
By Fr. Morgan Rice, CSB
Some of you might recognize the title of this reflection as the original motto of Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division. It accompanied the launch of its LS 400 sedan in 1989 after several years of research and development to build the world’s best car. This required identifying the best features of their competition and improving them. The result was an extremely refined, reliable, luxury car that even cost much less than the competition. However, to be the best depended not only on the car but also on the service experience associated with ownership. In this area, too, Lexus excelled. It was a total package aimed at perfection.
Today’s Gospel passage concludes with Jesus’ exhorting his disciples, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). Our society presents various notions of perfection (for example, with respect to appearance), but they usually only fit a small portion of the population. For most, it is not something that can be achieved no matter how hard one tries. However, the perfection that Jesus speaks of does not exclude anyone, but it is something that God’s grace allows anyone to obtain, no matter who they are or where they have come from.
St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s holy temples, temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our guide to the perfection that reflects the perfection of God in whose image we were created. Like those Lexus engineers and researchers who spent great deals of money and time to produce the LS 400 and the network of dealerships, we are to use what God makes available to us in our relentless pursuit of human perfection. While they studied Mercedes and BMW as ways to perfection, we look to Christ and the many holy women and men who have reflected his ways and qualities in their lives.
Christ is our model for perfection. Following his teachings, including his ways of non-violence, love and forgiveness of enemies, seeking others’ good without expecting anything in return, and giving of what he had to those in need, will help us to get closer to perfection. The thing is, God’s perfection does not require that all of us be exactly the same but instead to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us to be our unique, most authentic selves and fulfill our role in the diverse body of Christ.
Leviticus 19.1-2, 17-18
1 Corinthians 3.16-23