March 31, 2019frjohnma

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent and our liturgical celebrations bring to limelight the core news of the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the message of the spirituality of imperfection. It is the ability to recognize, realize and revere the dark sides of our lives and those of others. Jesus taught severally that “the last will be first” in parables, including the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and the publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). And Paul shouted it loudly with his infamous and much disliked statement: “when I am weak, I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Adherents and devotees of many spiritual traditions have tried to overturn the message above by seeking for a perfect life and withdrawing from many activities in order to be consciously given to the demands of the Christian life (perfection) and not to become last in entering the kingdom of God. The demand for perfection without the recognition of imperfection has landed many into severe troubles especially self-created perfectionism, immense self-preoccupation, unremitting self-criticism and legalism. There is supposed to be the push for wholeness or balance. The two sons of the parable of Luke 15:11-32 illustrate the subject at hand. The second son who was first is now last up to the point of not entering the house of celebrations in honour of the homecoming of his younger brother who was last and now is first. He is the image of perfection while the younger son is the figure of imperfection.

Over the years, God has raised many mystics and spiritually-minded figures to enlighten us about the spirituality of imperfection. We can talk of personages like St. Francis of Assisi who promoted the way of “poverty”, we have St. Teresa of the Child Jesus who returned the spirituality of imperfection by her “Little Way.” The spirituality of imperfection adheres to the expression, it is “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). This spirituality reflects in my acceptance of my imperfections in prayer, loving my littleness and inner poverty and striving to move on. The spirituality of imperfection no doubt is not against Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 5:48 “Be you perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Rather, instead of working for mainline perfection, the spirituality of imperfection adopts the Lukan version that says “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Our attitude towards perfection should be like that of the publican/tax collector, “The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’” (Luke 18:13). We may well prayerfully emulate St. Teresa of the Little Way through her prayer life that reveals the spirituality of imperfection, “I desire, in a word, to be a saint,” she prayed, “but I feel my helplessness and I beg you—Oh my God!—to be Yourself my Sanctity!”

The spirituality of imperfection, discloses the fact that holiness does not subsist in the elimination of moral defects alone but making sure that we receive mercy, compassion and forgiveness from God. It is making sure that you and I participate in God who is in us and not by trying to please or persuade God from afar. The modus operandi of seeking for perfection without imperfection that attracts mercy has never helped the spiritual life. People are increasingly becoming hypocritical, agnostic and atheistic because they cannot measure up with the divine attribute of perfection. Jesus knew it and that was why He pushed for mercy as the antidote for failures to attain perfection. If we have to be perfect, we need to embrace the perfect God but once we encounter the perfect God our awareness would usually draw us to St. Peter’s experience, “When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:4-8).


Comments (10)

  • Betty Omang

    March 31, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you Fr. John Mary for helping me realise that God’s mercy n grace are sufficient for me to meet Matt 5: 48.
    To think am perfect is indeed Pride. May God be merciful on me a poor sinner. I pray as a Mother, that I may lead all I encounter closer to God n not further away. Amen.

    1. frjohnma

      March 31, 2019 at 6:36 pm

      A resounding Amen to your prayer! 🙏

  • James Ishom

    March 31, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Rich spiritual renewal for a time like this. Well done Fr

  • Fr. John-Mary Atep

    March 31, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    Happy Sunday and thanks so much Sir. God bless you!

  • Vicky

    March 31, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    May God give us the grace to strive towards perfection In our daily struggles. Amen. Happy Sunday Fr.

    1. Fr. John-Mary Atep

      April 2, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      Great! God bless you

  • Ben Mary Ameh

    March 31, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Very copious,Fr. Thanks for this great teaching.

    1. Fr. John-Mary Atep

      April 2, 2019 at 12:09 pm

      Thanks a lot for your words and encouragement

  • Chinwe

    April 1, 2019 at 10:53 am

    God give us the grace of humility; the grace to forgive wrongs so that You will forgive us; to realise when we wrong our fellow men and to ask for their forgiveness. Make us realise how imperfect we are and to seek your mercy and help, we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
    Fr, John-Mary Atep thank you so much for this piece. You always have a way of reminding us of those mistakes we overlook and take for granted.
    Have a blessed day.

    1. frjohnma

      April 2, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      This is a powerful prayer that we need to cultivate and offer daily. “God give us the grace of humility; the grace to forgive wrongs so that You will forgive us; to realise when we wrong our fellow men and to ask for their forgiveness. Make us realise how imperfect we are and to seek your mercy and help, we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

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