I grew up living the mantra “nobody is perfect”. I was schooled to work hard and try harder. Perfection is impossible to attain, but strive towards it. Nadia Comaneci came along and I was entranced by gymnastics. When in the 1976 Olympics she scored the first perfect 10, the whole world was mesmerized. But still perfection belonged only to sports until Bo Derek came along in 10 a few years later. Perfect 10 began playing in our minds in all aspects of life.
I grew up also believing in life after death. I believe in the resurrection. Only through the passage of death will I find perfection. Many argue this belief, but for me it has given me a strong handle to deal with the challenges of my earthly life. It gives me time to rebound from my wrong doings and learn from my mistakes. Ahead of me is the prize of perfection: eternal life of everlasting happiness and joy. There is no judgement until we reach the finish line and we are allowed to fail as many times as we fail.
Today’s second reading is perfect for this reflection. “I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.”
The elder son from last week’s parable continue to cast his shadow of our reflections. Like him we too have our image of the perfect 10, a line of what is acceptable and what is not. Cross our line and we uncontrollably judge. We condemn, stigmatize and throw stones. Our lifetime is the duration of this race and no prizes are given mid-race. There is time yet to stumble but as a friend wisely wrote, “But many times through these stumbles we reconnect with God”.
In today’s Gospel, Christ knows we will stumble. He bents down to the ground and provide us with grace to race on in life. This is the love of God in action. Each mistake or wrong doing is polished with forgiveness and given time for restoration. Life is this run towards the perfection of eternal life. Along the way, especially through our stumbles, we are being perfected take our place in it.
Lent is a time of returning and perfecting. Lent is a time of prayer to get into that deeper reflection. We are not only in the woman on the ground but often too in the baying crowd, quick to condemn and refusing others a chance of restoration (Today’s Gospel). In this we hear that we are never condemned whoever we are even if I am a disbeliever. God will continue to perfect us. We are not left to our own efforts. The more we strain ahead the more we find God’s graces perfecting us.
God perfects us in the things that happened to us in life. We can look back at our past and find many events to be grateful for (first reading). Today we acknowledge we are not perfect but that He is always perfecting us. With this we can continue to run towards 10, with grace and gratitude.
5th Sunday in Lent