I had a small child, maybe 3 or 4 years old, who was very, very well-behaved,
who never got dirty, who never asked for anything or questioned anything
whatsoever, and who was nothing but completely obedient at all times...
Well, I would be very worried about that child.
Being holy, for a child or for adults, is not the same as being "perfect"
or "staying between the lines," and this is what Jesus seems to be stressing
in today's Gospel reading. This is all that the scribes and Pharisees
tried to do, and they thought it was enough. Jesus disagrees.
We do not, even in our best moments, share the holiness of the scribes and
Pharisees, a holiness that is at best illusive, for we know and admit that
we are and always will be sinners in this life. But how can we be sinful
and holy at the same time?
The child I would want, and the kind that I think our Father wants, is a
lively, bumptious, imaginative, and generous person, one whose eyes, heart,
and hands are open. Such a child asks questions, dreams dreams, and
tries to create and build. That child, in all of his going out and
doing, in all of her trying blessed with mixed success and failure, knows
where his or her heart lies, knows how God looks at their eagerness and faithful
attempts to imitate Him. There is a purity of heart and desire in such
a child, even if (because?) he or she is not "perfect."
That is what the Firstborn is all about. Anyone reading John's Gospel
cannot help but see the love that Jesus bears the Father, the desire to serve
without question or limit, to go beyond the demands of the Law, to embrace
the world, to do what He sees the Father doing.
As a cherished child of my Father and trying hard to imitate Jesus, I need
to eagerly, energetically, rambunctiously attempt to go beyond, discover,
grow, and take responsibility for the building of the Kingdom here where
God has placed and called me --- whether or not my imitation of the Father's
holiness is perfect or not: I am not in charge of my salvation, nor am I
the best judge of how much I am achieving. I really need to let God
be God and just go about the business He has given me, that of being His
That, I think, is the holiness that our Master is calling us to.