Help clarify an answer for me from the Apologist forum?


#1

The Apologist forum recently posted my question on Matthew 5:48, where I asked if we could really be perfect as Jesus commanded (be perfect as your heavely Father is perfect), or if Jesus is giving us a command he knows we can’t fulfill (if so, why?). I’ve had this dicussion many times with an evangelical friend of mine and we are both confused. The apologist posted the response below from Lumen Gentium. I asked for a clarification because I’m still confused. I can read the text below both ways - yes we can be perfect, but, on the other hand, since we all offend we must continually pray and ask forgiveness, which tells me we can’t be perfect (sinless). My follow-up wasn’t selected to post on the forum. Can anyone help me understand this command of Jesus? Is there a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to 'can we be perfect’ as we are commanded to be? Can anyone explain it to me? Thank you so much!

*“The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and everyone of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consumator of this holiness of life: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Indeed He sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them. The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live “as becomes saints”, and to put on “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience”, and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness. Since truly we all offend in many things we all need God’s mercies continually and we all must daily pray: “Forgive us our debts”.

“Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”* (, 40Lumen Gentium)


#2

Folks seem to be taking issue with some of my posts, but on the other hand… this is an open public forum with mostly lay people writing in.

I would love to study Greek and Hebrew and be able to read the scriptures in their original text. And original context, as well.

Jesus didn’t speak English (much less American) because it / they hadn’t been invented yet. And if he HAD tried to speak those languages, no one would have been able to understand him.

So, here is my two cents worth, for what it’s worth…

We cannot be admitted into Heaven unless we are perfect. Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus, the Father [are one]… and the Holy Spirit… all are not only Perfect, but also Infinite.

Hmmm. But we are not only imperfect … inherently imperfect, but also… finite… VERY finite… very limited.

BUT, what if… in Purgatory, we are sent to a “finishing school”… so that regardless of our earthly finite limitations (shortcomings, personality quirks, failures, mental illness, lots of forgiven “mortal sins” and lots of unforgiven “venial sins”), we will, when we are finished with the “finishing school” be rendered “perfect”… or at least as “perfect” as the Father determines is necessary for admission to Heaven.

Suppose in Heaven we are given various gifts… time travel… space travel… all kinds of understanding… we could be in a position to misuse the Heavenly gifts, if we are not “perfect enough”.

I mean like… St. Dismas was the first person admitted to Heaven. And he was such an incorrigible “thief”, maybe a psychopath… that he had to be put to death by the civil authorities. And yet somehow, somewhere along the line, he was “perfected” enough to be admitted into Heaven. And got all those great gifts.

Maybe one of the good things for us to pray for, is for the gifts in this life to allow us to partake of the various gifts in the next life. To be open to God’s grace.

God, Jesus, can admit to Heaven ANYBODY that He decides should be admitted. We can’t tell Him who to exclude. His ways are not our ways.


I’m sure someone will beat me up over this.

:cool:


#3

Hi Elzee,

Jesus knew that God’s perfection is infinite and that we are finite.

Therefore he could not command us to be perfect, but to strive to be perfect. God is our ideal, an ideal that we aim for, but will never reach.

By doing your best to follow the teachings of Jesus, by rising when you fall, by never giving up, you are following Jesus’ command.

Verbum


#4

I’ll give the same answer I once gave to a Mormon who quoted the same verse to imply that I could become another god.

We are called to be morally perfect, not ontologically perfect.

Moral perfection is possible only with God’s grace. Sanctifying grace is indeed a sharing in God’s life and it tends to perfect us morally.

How will we know when we have become morally perfect? When we die and enter heaven without passing through purgatory. But even if we have to pass through purgatory we will be morally perfected through the grace of God.


#5

[quote=Verbum]Hi Elzee,

Jesus knew that God’s perfection is infinite and that we are finite.

Therefore he could not command us to be perfect, but to strive to be perfect. God is our ideal, an ideal that we aim for, but will never reach.

By doing your best to follow the teachings of Jesus, by rising when you fall, by never giving up, you are following Jesus’ command.

Verbum
[/quote]

But the command says ‘be perfect’ - not ‘strive to be perfect’? Is this a poor translation?


#6

Hi,

'…that you be perfect as My Father is perfect…"

Again all I can do is share an experience and let you go from there.
It was during mass and, as was my habit then, I never took my eyes off Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as He was being elevated by the priest as I gave thanks and praise for Jesus, who He is and what He has done for me.
It was then that I had an interior locution which said,"Lower your eyes. You are looking at Perfection as you will never be perfect,"
I lowered my eyes and saw the gold chalice fashioned and formed to transport the Precious, Blessed, Saving, Redeeming Blood of our Saviour to souls thirsty to know, love and serve Him.
As I gazed upon the Chalice, I was led to reflect on the cold, barren piece of geography known as the Canadian Shield, where most of our gold is mined.
I reflected on how this desolate, isolated, seemingly famished and starving place, in terms of plant and animal life, reminded myself of me.
It had taken men of vision and hope to explore this area and find the value, hidden from most eyes, that existed in it. It had taken God to find and reveal that value in me.
Just as the gold the prospectors had found, had to be blasted from the rock in which it had been found, so also had I to be shattered and blasted from my human sins. I had to be emptied of self. Of ego. Of all that keeps me from knowing, loving and serving God as I should.
Once extracted, it is pure but still needs the work of the Master’s hand to be moulded and formed into a thing of beauty. Once formed it waits, for a day, a year, an age until it is called by the master to do the mission chosen for it by Him who loves us.
We thus live in the perfection only God the Father knows for us which is not perfection as we know it nor perfection as the Father is perfect, yet perfectly perfected within the Father.


#7

Hi Elzee,

Jesus proposes an ideal.

If you are studying writing, I can tell you “Write like Charles Dickens”. Or “When you can write like Ernest Hemingway, then you can call yourself a writer.” What are you going to do? Give up in despair? No. You are going to try every day to get better. This is what Jesus meant.


#8

God does not ask the impossible.

Think about that. :slight_smile:


#9

I went to Google and there are all sorts of replies, but here is one that is brief and interesting… going to the origin of the Greek and various definitions of the variations of the translations:

Be ye as complete / impartial as your Heavenly Father is complete / impartial.

bswett.com/1966-08Perfect.html

I think that in all of these cases of questions about meaning of some English text of the Bible written in Hebrew or Greek, then we REALLY need to do some scholarship. On top of that, there are cultural issues that we simply cannot relate to… for example, the THREAD COUNT of the Shroud of Turin is apparently not the proper thread count for a burial shroud of the time… but is the proper thread count for a table cloth… someone supposedly found thirteen faint circles / rings around one side of the “shroud”. Could it be the table cloth from the Last Supper??? Well, in the famous painting of the Last Supper, all the apostles and Jesus are seated around one side… Leading to the joke: “Everyone who wants to get in the picture get over here on this side.”… But then we learn that the culture of the time required all the guests to be seated on one side of the table, so the servers could bring the food from the other side.

So, not only language, but also culture are important in translations.

Foreign languages simply do NOT translate well from one to another.

As I mentioned in some other post, I once had to compare four different translations of “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross. They were SO widely varying in the English, so as to be almost unrecognizable as being from the same Spanish text.

I have found substantial differences in Latin translations, as well. Latin has a (to us, English-speakers) strange sentence structure. It just doesn’t easily translate into an “equivalence”.

Others have found problems in translations from Arabic.

Even something so “simple” as “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is probably more properly translated into “Thou Shalt Not Murder”.


#10

It is “possible” (admitedly it is highly improbable for most) to fulfill Matthew 5:48 and “be perfect” as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is possible though in Catholic theology because of its correct teaching on justification by infusion as opposed to the incorrect Protestant view of imputation. Infusion means that when God justifies us we are made completely holy inwardly in our soul and person and this happens after baptism, for it washes away original and actual sin (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:18-21, John 3:5). When we are justified by our baptism the Holy Spirit is infused into us and makes an indelable mark on our soul. God makes us holy much like a glass filled with water, that water being God’s grace,the glass being us.

**Catholic Catechism 1992 “**Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life.”

2 Peter 1:3-4:
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature."

We can also see the examples of incorruptable Saints who’s bodies haven’t corrupted after they physically died. St. Bernadette is a modern witness to this fact, after her body was exhumed after thirty years in a grave and to this day has a body that hasn’t decayed. God, I personally believe, does this in order to show us that we can be made perfect through His grace if we only as cooperate with His grace (2 Cor 6:1, 1 Cor 3:9, Rom 8:28, Mark 6:20).

So it is possible and that’s what we should strive for.

Protestants would never say that we can be made completely holy because of their false view of justification by imutation; that is to say when God justifies us He only makes a legal declarative affirmation of our holiness, but doesn’t actually make us completely holy. They would say Jesus is saying in Mt 5:48 something He knows we can’t fulfill. Unfortunately, most of us won’t be completely holy at our death which is why the Scriptural theological concept of purgatory is true.
Those in heaven won’t be sinning (Rev 21:27), most all of us will die with some stain of sin on us (1 Cor 3:15), that is to say most all of us will not fully reliquish every act of our will to Christ’s will, therefore there has to be some sort purification process between death and glory; this is what the Catholic Church calls purgatory.


#11

[quote=Elzee]The Apologist forum recently posted my question on Matthew 5:48, where I asked if we could really be perfect as Jesus commanded (be perfect as your heavely Father is perfect), or if Jesus is giving us a command he knows we can’t fulfill (if so, why?).
[/quote]

Let us look at the verses preceding Matt. 5:48:"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matt. 5: 43-48The perfection that Jesus is talking about is the perfect love (supernatural charity) that we are called to manifest as his disciples. The real question is not whether we can avoid all venial sin, but can we love as God loves? God loves unconditionally, and that is why Jesus says we must not only love those who love us, but we must also love our enemies.

Jesus’ commandment to be perfect in Matt 5:48 is really the same commandment that Jesus gave in John 13:34: " A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

Can a human ever manifest unconditional love and supernatural charity? Apart from grace, he cannot. But with God, all things are possible.Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matt. 19:21-26


#12

The *Catechism of the Catholic Church * cites Matt: 5:48 is several places. For example:2013 “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” …

**. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us

2842** This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.

1693 Christ Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father, and always lived in perfect communion with him. Likewise Christ’s disciples are invited to live in the sight of the Father “who sees in secret,” in order to become “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

“It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God.”

That sums it up perfectly. :wink:


#13

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