Last Saturday, Phil Humber, pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, threw a perfect game – only the 21st time that feat has been accomplished in major league history. (A perfect game is where 27 hitters come to bat, and 27 are retired – no hits, no walks, no runs.) As an avid White Sox fan, I congratulate Phil - well done!
Watching him interviewed on ESPN2, Humber said, “This is awesome. I’m so thankful.” After thanking his teammates, including A.J. Pierzynski, Brent Lillibridge, and Alex Rios, he remarked, “It was a well-pitched game. Definitely something I’ll never forget.” And neither will we. Thanks Phil, and GO WHITE SOX!!
The pursuit of excellence is a great thing to watch – whether it is in the sports arena, in music, theater, education, business or the healing arts. It takes great dedication and a lot of practice. It may take years of study and persistence. There may be many failures before a level of excellence is reached. When someone achieves excellence it is often not just a one-time occurrence. Often people who excel feel a deep-down urge to continue at a high-level of accomplishment.
But what about pursuing excellence in the way we live? What if everything we did – from driving a car to raising our children to our work and play activities – was done with dignity and excellence? Is there a way that we can have poise and intelligence embed themselves in everything we do - from the little minutiae of life up to the largest challenges we face? I think there is – and it doesn’t come from micromanaging every circumstance that we face and feeling overwhelmed if we “let go” a little.
Instead it comes from realizing that a power greater than us exists, and we can express that power in a more spiritual life. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us lessons for how to live from this spiritual vantage. Whether someone is Christian or not, this Sermon has a lot to share on how to live with dignity, grace and respect – with excellence. In other words, this sermon teaches how to have dominion over jealousy, anger, and other emotions that can tear us down.
It is found in the Bible, Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7. It instructs that humility, love, and purity are not passive, but powerful. It advises that the high caliber of life includes empathy, moderation, righteousness and charity, thus deserving respect. These are the virtues of excellence.
It’s not easy to live the Sermon on the Mount – it isn’t easy to pitch a perfect game. But who doesn’t want to live a better life? If you are like me, you may find many times a day that you are not living up to your highest potential when it comes to living a higher sense of excellence, but to try is doing much. The sermon ends with the story of two houses: one built on the sand and one built on a rock. Both houses encounter a storm, but the one on the rock endures. Jesus said the life built on his teaching in this Sermon is like the house on a rock – it endures through the tough times and comes through with dignity and strength.
Christian Science writer, Mary Baker Eddy once wrote to her Church, “To my sense the Sermon on the Mount, read each Sunday without comment and obeyed throughout the week, would be enough for Christian practice” (Message for 1901, p. 11).
Do you want to live your life from a higher perspective? The Sermon on the Mount may be something that will help you smooth out the rough edges of temper, envy and distrust. To live our lives with greater grace will help us in our own personal pursuit of excellence. Although we may never pitch a perfect game, we can excel in love, honesty and trustworthiness – then, we will shine in the game of life.