Last Friday, students received their progress reports for the 5th six weeks. This is a half-way mark so students can see their progress until report cards come out 3 weeks later. Upon receiving their grades, a student complained to me about their grade. They told me “you can’t teach! Last year, I was passing English, now I’m failing.” My response to this was a simple “ok, I’m sorry you feel that way.”
Besides me knowing this student’s claim was baseless (my data is exceedingly well and my students have surpassed their goals and are on track to passing the state standardized exam in less than a month) I did realize the student in question made a good point about how high my bar is for student mastery.
I try to keep it that way, even though my lessons are sometimes boring to students. The bar for passing is quite hard. Considering that so much of 7th grade ELA consists of data tracking and me going back to the drawing board to revise and implement a better plan is all in the defense of trying to surpass my passing quota set by my on-campus coach. Making better lesson plans with more rigorous demands is what helps my students boost their scores. For some, this standard seems impossible to reach, but for nearly 75% of my students, the goal is attainable because they’ve demonstrated mastery.
As I sat thinking critically about my student’s attack on my teaching, their remark made me think about how high God’s bar is for us to strive for. How can mere man ever reach up to a transcendent God? Surprisingly, Jesus Christ gave us the command “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (NRSV Mat. 5:48).” By following Christ’s prescription on the Sermon on the Mount, the ultimate end of life goal, having fellowship with God, becomes a process we have to strive for.
That’s a pretty high bar for moral conduct and general way of life.
To be perfect.
Jesus Christ seems to be conveying a similar message from Leviticus 11:44 and fashioning it to apply to those who heard him speak. Just as God is perfect, we too are to strive for this perfection in our own lives.
“But perfection seems unreasonable. How am I to strive for such a high unrealistic conduct when God is so above me in all ways?”
This is where the Holy Spirit becomes greatly needed. As the Nicene Creed states in regards to the Spirit, it is called the “the giver of life.” Jesus came on earth so that we may have life abundantly, and the Holy Spirit helps open the doorway to a life of extraordinary virtue. This special grace inserted into our lives by the Holy Spirit helps awaken us more to God and equips us to live a life pleasing and acceptable to Him in our works.
By cooperating with the grace of the Spirit, we insert certain fruits that help us live Christ’s life in our lives. The truly crucified life. How Christ loved we can love; How Christ loved God, we can love Him too. This supernatural grace from God ultimately helps us become fully perfect one day to be partakers of the divine nature.
When we’re given special sanctifying grace in our lives, the command from Jesus to “Be perfect” isn’t a simply a thought-provoking theological idea, but actually a spiritual reality. Therefore, the bar that was once too high is able to be accomplished by supernatural grace in a lifelong process.
If we fail in a grave manner by committing sin, we break that fellowship of grace and need to be restored back to good standing with God by the Sacrament of Penance or confession of sin.
Just as I have my bar high for student success, God places an even higher bar for moral perfection. Jesus Christ stated that his burden is easy and yoke is light (Matt. 11:30) and he literally wants to give himself to us so we can be spiritually more alive to God. The bar may seem high, but nothing is impossible for God. Remember, the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, indwells within and is literally breaking the bonds of sin and producing evidential fruit that demonstrates Christ alive in us.
May we strive to continually proceed onward to attain sanctity to be acceptable to God.
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