Our ultimate goal in life, a supernatural goal, which is the face-to-face vision of God in heaven for all eternity, is a state of perfection.
Gradual progress or growth from imperfect to perfect is a natural characteristic of all living creatures, both material and spiritual. This principle applies even to angels, since they had to pass a test before being admitted to paradise. But it is especially true of all plants and animals, including human beings who are gifted with rationality.
Plants begin as seeds, and through nourishment, grow to maturity. Animals are generated in a small and weak state and gradually, through nourishment and with time, develop into mature animals. Human beings are born as helpless infants, needing lots of care and protection so that they can grow strong, and eventually take care of themselves. A “perfect” infant possesses all that a child needs to live; but he or she is not a perfect human being because the infant cannot use its innate powers until they have time to develop and mature.
What does it mean to be perfect? Perfect is defined as that which is complete or whole. So a perfect house, or a perfect car, is one that is complete—it has everything it needs to function well, as a house or as a car. The imperfect is anything that lacks wholeness and completeness. So a house without a roof is imperfect, and a car with no motor is imperfect.
My reason for raising this subject is that Our Lord tells us, in Matthew 5:48, that we should be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Also, I have noticed, in reading St. Thomas Aquinas, that he often uses the distinction between what is imperfect and what is perfect.
Our ultimate goal in life, a supernatural goal, which is the face-to-face vision of God in heaven for all eternity, is a state of perfection. Everyone in heaven right now is perfect. Each one is perfect, according to the degree of grace attained, according to divine providence, something similar to the hierarchies of angels. God alone is infinitely perfect in every way.
Perfection in this life means developing all of one’s faculties, and practicing all the virtues, especially the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. For example, what is required by the Church in the canonization process is that the individual under consideration must be proven to have practiced heroic virtue, that is, to have achieved a certain perfection.
What we are concerned about is Christian and spiritual perfection. Many books and guides to attain this have been written by experts in the field, such as St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis de Sales, St. Ignatius Loyola, and many others.
In the religious orders, there are different approaches to perfection, such as Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit, Cistercian, Carmelite, and so forth.
Perfection for the Christian, no matter which group he belongs to—priest, religious, or lay, consists in the imitation of Christ. Jesus Christ is the model. He was, and is, perfect in every virtue, and it is virtue that makes a man good. He tells us, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).
Is perfection attainable for weak human beings? The answer is:“Yes!” but only with the grace of God, universal charity, the practice of the Beatitudes, and letting the Holy Spirit work in us through his Seven Gifts. As the Christian striving for perfection gets closer to the goal, he or she is filled with love for God and man, radiating the joy which is manifested in the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit. We are all called to strive for perfection. Therefore, it is important to pray every day for the grace to achieve it. There is nothing in this life more important than attaining perfection in imitation of Christ Our Lord.