Here’s a spectacular flourish of language from the ever-inimitable Fr. George Rutler (that gave rise to many other thoughts!):
Perfectionists are easily scandalized by what is not good. Saints are scandalized only by what is not glorious. We may say in cliché, “nobody’s perfect,” but the fact is, saints are perfect, and they are precisely so because they do not try to be good, better, and best. The more they are transfigured by the Light, the more they seem to themselves bad, worse, and worst. Perfectionists resent the weaknesses that saints boast of: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The perfectionist misses this whole point and so, like the narrow kind of Pharisee, he casts a cold eye on the failings of humans, as if the failings abolish the humanity. The saints, having seen the glory on the mountaintop, do not gaze at themselves, but “see only Jesus” who, rather than transforming them into goodness, transfigures them into glory.
It’s just as Fr. Tom Hopko once said pithily,
Christianity’s first about God before it’s about anything else. Faith is about God’s mercy in Christ poured out — God crucified, God’s blood spilled, a dead corpse hanging cursed on a Tree for our salvation, risen from the grave and pouring out his Spirit on all flesh. It’s God’s work that we receive first and foremost. It’s when Christians forget that obvious but easily overlooked point — and make Christianity about what we do, moralizing and intellectualizing ideas, and not about crying out to God for mercy on behalf of all humanity– it’s then that everything goes wrong.
An elderly priest once said this to me:
When I was young and wonderfully zealous, I tried to do all that was possible for the Kingdom; but I soon tired. When I matured, I did what I could for the Kingdom; but felt restless. Now, in my old age, I do only what is essential; and that, son, is simply to be supple in the Hands of God at every moment and in every circumstance. And that’s life’s hardest lesson to learn — to allow your love to come from first being loved.
Again, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta:
At the moment of death we will not be judged according to the number of good deeds we have done or by the diplomas we have received in our lifetime. We will be judged according to the love we have put into our work.
Lastly, a line from a homily at my home parish soon after Bl John Paul II’s death:
It was that final blessing of Pope John Paul in the window of the Apostolic Palace on this Easter Sunday that was, for me, his supreme act of power. It was power flowing from his weakness, animated by his love of the Shepherd whose Vicar he was; animated by the love of the Shepherd who became weak to make us strong in love.