Jesus summed up His teaching in a startling and unambiguous call to His follower: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Perfect in purity of heart, perfect in compassion and love, perfect in obedience, perfect in conformity to the will of the Father, perfect in holiness – when we hear these words we can be understandable tempted to discouragement, thinking that perfection for us is impossible. And indeed, left to our own resources, it certainly is – just as impossible as it is for rich people to enter heaven, or for a man and woman to remain faithful their whole lives in marriage. But with God, all things are possible, even our transformation.
John Paul II in his prophetic interpretation of the events of the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, Nove Millennio Ineunte, points out that the Holy Spirit is again bringing to the forefront of the Church’s consciousness the conviction that these words of Jesus are indeed meant for every single one of us. He emphasizes that this call to the fullness of holiness is an essential part of being a Christian.
To ask catechumens: “Do you wish to receive Baptism?” means at the same time to ask them: “Do you wish to become holy?” It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48)… The time has come to repropose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction. (NMI 30, 31) – John Paul II
John Paul II goes on further to call the parishes of the third millennium to become schools of prayer and places where “training in holiness” is given.
Our Christian communities must become genuine “schools” of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until heart truly “falls in love.” … It would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life. (NMI 33) – John Paul II