6 March, 2020

To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

~ Saint John Henry Newman ~

Ezekiel 18:21-28; Psalm 130; Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus says in the Matthew’s Gospel, “You must become perfect, as God your Father is perfect”. The really frustrating thing about being human, though, is that we never seem to “get it right”. We seem to keep making mistakes. Perfection just doesn’t seem to be within our grasp!


But if we take a closer look at St Newman’s quote above, we get a sense of what God’s call might be to us this Lent. For Newman, life is about change. It is never static. Every day, we face some old challenges and are introduced to new challenges along the way, which we try to tackle and grow through. There is always something to learn. And if we remain dedicated to a process of growth in our lives, we slowly become the persons God is calling us to be. To be perfect is to have changed often.


Importantly for us, God wants us to ultimately grow into the persons he is calling us to be. If we make mistakes and fall, God wants us to learn from our mistakes and to get up and try again. As Ezekiel says in the first reading today, “Does God not prefer to see the sinner renounce his wickedness and live?” And if we respond to God’s call and keep trying to choose life, he will always forgive us and support us as we learn along the way. Ezekiel puts these words into God’s mouth, “What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man?” God knows that sinful choices destroy his life in us. God knows that our only path to joy, peace and happiness is through the life that he has made for us. Because God loves us, God will never turn us away if we return to him after we make mistakes in our lives. He hopes that we will learn and grow. We can experience a thousand different setbacks on our journey towards wholeness and holiness. But as we get up and try again, God’s love and mercy are our constant companions along the way to perfection.


Loving God,


Watch over us as we grow, and give us the grace to choose life.


And if we get it wrong and make mistakes, give us the help we need to learn and grow, and the strength to get up and try again.




Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

This reflection has been adapted from Have Mercy, O Lord! Daily Reflections for Lent by Grant Tungay SJ, Russell Pollitt SJ, Annemarie Paulin-Campbell, Puleng Matsaneng, Anthony Egan SJ and Frances Correia, & published by the Jesuit Institute South Africa in 2016.

Reflection prepared by

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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