The language of blessings and curses is very stark. That is, there is very little room for understanding something in between these two extremes. This is very unfortunate as the majority of human living would seem to me to be lived somewhere in the nether world of the not completely perfect (the recipe for blessings) and the not totally evil (the breeding ground of curses.) Let me try to explain what I mean by this and hopefully avoid scandalizing you at the same time!

Humanity, being what it is, is seemingly caught betwixt and between – unable to completely measure up to God’s demands of perfection, yet at the same time, not having totally given in to sin and evil. We have an enormous amount of good intention but all too often this does not necessarily translate into the righteous actions that we desire. There seems to be a sort of incapacity to totally align ourselves to way of Christ; we always seem to slip back into one bad habit or another. If this is the case, and experience tells me that it is, them the absolute language of blessings and curses as we read them in today’s scriptures needs to be understood in a nuanced form as an ideal that we seek to follow knowing that we will probably fall short of it often. This is not an excuse for mediocrity or a justification of sin! We must still strive to eliminate both of these weaknesses from our lives.

What I am calling for is for us to treat one another with mercy. We must never forget that our God is a God of mercy and love. He does not only stand on our results and His Law. He understands our human condition because He has experienced it in the person of His Son, Jesus. When we examine our own response to God or are helping others do the same with their lives. Let us remember that God calls us to perfection but He fully understands that the path to perfection is a long journey that will take us many years, even a lifetime to travel! He does not demand perfection tomorrow, though it would be good if we were able to produce it so quickly!

John Henry Cardinal Newman, among many of the saints, had a very good understanding of the way in which the spiritual life was a journey towards perfection, in that he talked about the concept of a ‘messy Church.’ What he means by this is that we are a Church undergoing growth and change all of the time including growth in personal holiness. We cannot expect everyone to be perfect all of the time! That is what we live and hope for; what we are working towards. It is not the reality here and now – it is the promise of what heaven will be like in eternal life.

Do I place unrealistic expectations on others or myself? How can I better understand the process by which we all grow in holiness each day?

Holy Spirit, help me to grow in holiness today. Help me to overcome the sin in my life and to form habits of virtue rather than habits of vice. Help me to be realistic with the expectations that I have for both others and myself.