Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Achieving Perfection

This is the reprint of an advent reflection distributed at my workplace. Credit goes to Linda Mesenbrink at Mercy Health System. I've found the message and sentiment very relevant in a lot of ways over the past couple of months since I first read it. I hope you do, too.

Achieving Perfection

There are two classical concepts of perfection, one Greek and the other Hebrew. In the Greek ideal, to be perfect is to have no deficiencies, no faults, no flaws; it means to be completely whole, true, good, and beautiful. To be perfect, then ,is never to sin.

The Hebrew ideal of perfection is quite different. In this mindset, to be perfect simply means to walk with God, despite our flaws. Perfection here means being in the divine presence, in spite of the fact that we are not perfectly whole, true, and beautiful.

Our concept of holiness in the West has been shaped by the Greek ideal of perfection. Hence, holiness has been understood as a question of measuring up to a certain benchmark. Such a view is not without its merits. it is a perpetual challenge against mediocrity and laziness: we are always invited to something higher. But such a concept of perfection also has a nasty underside. When perfection means measuring up, we find it hard to forgive ourselves and others for not being God. We carry around a lot of discouragement, guilt and lack of forgiveness because of this.

What God asks is that we bring our helplessness, weakness, and imperfection to him. Like a good parent, he understands that we will make mistakes and disappoint him and ourselves. What he asks is simply that we share our lives with him and that we let him help us when we are powerless to help ourselves.

When perfection means measuring up, we find it hard to forgive ourselves and others.

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