One of the most daunting single verses in Scripture is “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) In the Greek the word used is to be teleios just as our God in heaven in teleios. In our spoken English we take “perfect” to be mean without mistake, without blemish, spot or stain. The challenge comes in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount when we have just been told how to live and understand the commandments, how to live more deeply and more fully. But even if we accept the challenge, we know there are limits to our humanity. We are going to fall short. We will not be perfect.
It is like the old story of being challenged to gain a price beyond all measure and all one has to do is walk a short distance from here to there. There is one catch. Each movement towards the prize can only move half the distance remaining and you can only make one movement a year. If the prize was 100 yards away in the beginning, the first movement can be 50 yards on day zero. A year later you can take the next part of the quest and move to the 25 yards mark, and so as the years pass until you reach…. well, actually you’ll never reach it. And probably along the way times runs out, you reach the end of days.
The hardcore realist understands this and recognizes there is no point in the effort because who knows how many days we are given and even if we enjoy long life, in the end the prize will never be gained. The realist never takes the journey choosing to spend his efforts on more obtainable things.
The believer takes the journey knowing that it just that, a journey and there is something to be gained in the effort. Yes, the years pass but the prize looms closer each year. Progress has been made – and that has its own reward – and so the quest continues. Perhaps the believer is also part-dreamer. Even while acknowledging he may never quite get there, perhaps he will get close enough that he can just reach out…
The journey of the believer is the meaning of teleios. The aim, the goal, the prize is always ahead. There is a future dimension. At the conclusion there is a wholeness, a completeness, fully coming into being what was always intended. The perfection appropriate to the nature of the believer, the perfection of humanity. What God intended for us.
“His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Come to share in the divine nature. Amazing, mysterious, teleios. The journey we are called to take and be reminded in every celebration of Mass, when as the priest pours a drop of water into the chalice just filled with wine: “By the mystery of this water in wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” May we come to share, may we have communion in the divinity of Christ – teleios.
In His incarnation, Jesus accepts the limits of humanity yet seeds it with the sacred. In our Holy Communion of the Eucharist, we are called to wholly and completely accept the sacred within the limits of our humanity, and be in communion with God. The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ while at the same time a sign of the promise, the prize to come – a share in the divine nature. When the days we are given come to an end and the journey over we are traveled far and come “close enough” that the hand of God reaches out to welcome us all the way home. Teleios.
In these days of “safer-at-home” when coming together as community is not possible, when we can not gather as one body of Christ for communion and Holy Communion, we can still journey. We can be intentional and know that in Christ our humanity is seeded with the divine. To pause and meditate upon that great mystery, together, in a Spiritual Communion, it to marvel at the great mystery and promise of the Eucharist in this life and mystery to come. It is to take the next step towards teleios.