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Bishop's Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

By Bishop Larry Silva
February 10, 2019

[St. John the Apostle & Evangelist Church, Mililani (Marriage Convalidations); St. John Vianney Church, Kailua] 

Perhaps you have heard the saying “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  Sometimes we do not do good things simply because we know we cannot do them perfectly, and the risk of failure – or worse, ridicule – is not a risk we want to take.  So we choose to do nothing.  “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” 

That was Isaiah’s first reaction when he saw a vision of God and sensed that something more was going to be asked of him.  He said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.”  He knew that he was not worthy to be a prophet.  Yet God cleansed his lips and definitively chose him, and he then accepted this vocation and became one of the greatest, most eloquent prophets of history. 

The same was true of Simon Peter.  When he heard the enthralling words of Jesus and was involved in the biggest catch he had ever experienced in his life as a fisherman, he became very aware of his sinfulness and cried out, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  In other words, “I am not perfect, so you really shouldn’t be hanging around with me.”  But Jesus reassured him, and from that moment on, this very imperfect man became the intimate friend and disciple of Jesus.  It was grace that saved him, and it was grace that moved his heart to accept his mission. 

There is a series of radio commercials I have heard recently that encourages people to become adoptive parents.  It points out that you don’t have to be perfect, as you might first think, you just have to be good and willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of love of a child in need.  Even natural parents, of course, can have self-doubts because they are not perfect parents, yet God has given them the call to be parents, even if they are not perfect. 

In a marriage, neither party is perfect.  One might be disappointed at the other party’s imperfections and even try to change those imperfections – usually with the result of making things worse.  It is when couples accept their imperfections and love the other person anyway that the marriage bond is strengthened.  And when it is strengthened, people do in fact become better.  So just as God called sinful Isaiah to be his prophet and sinful Simon Peter to follow him and become a fisher of men, so the Lord calls us imperfect sinners to love one another, even when our love may not be perfect. 

We all have a mission to share the Gospel of Jesus with others.  This is something that Jesus commissioned all his disciples to do, not just clergy or religious, but all.  We can easily hold back from that mission by saying, “I am not a good public speaker.”  (Moses said that!)  Or “I need to learn more about my faith before I share it with others.”  (Paul jumped right in, even though he had a lot to learn at the beginning.)  Or “I do not live my faith fully, so others might call me a hypocrite if I invite them to share my faith in Jesus.”  Yes, they might, and that would hurt.  But Jesus never shied away from being hurt when he spoke the truth that others sometimes did not want to hear. 

Like Isaiah and Simon Peter, we need to recognize our sinfulness, our shortcomings and our inadequacies and accept them for what they are.  Like these two great leaders in the faith, we need to recognize that we are not perfect – as God, of course, already knows quite well. Yet like these, we hope that we will be open to do whatever God calls us to do; that we will nevertheless dedicate ourselves to his mission.  If we wait until we are perfect, no one will ever hear the good news of Jesus and the world will continue to starve for love.  Like Peter and his companions, we first need to let ourselves be overwhelmed by the One who is perfect, by Jesus, our Savior and Lord.  And once we do, we will be able to leave behind our excuses, our high expectations, and even the miraculous abundance of gifts God gives us, so that we can follow Jesus as his disciples, so that he can continue to fill the world with his sacrificial love.