I want to look at today’s Gospel reading from two perspectives:
- A theological perspective
- A practical perspective
First a theological perspective
What is Jesus talking about in the Scripture readings today? Unconditional love and a personal sanctification process (emphasis on the word “process”). This is the FIRST ITEM I’d like to emphasize today: ENGAGEMENT OF YOUR LIFE WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF AN ONGOING RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. That is important in light of the SECOND ITEM.
The SECOND ITEM is HOW WE ENGAGE THE WORD. A guy I know was reflecting on this reading. He said, “The problem is that this Gospel sets such a high bar, it’s like a slap to the face. It’s such a challenge that I feel that I’ll never get there – it’s discouraging.”
But Christ knows us. He understands our:
- Our weaknesses,
- Our lives,
- Our challenges.
And so the THIRD ITEM is HOW THE WORD ENGAGES US. He gently turns our life around “within our own realm.” What does that mean? What would that look like?
Maybe it looks like this: I’m in sales and I’m failing. The mortgage is late and the mortgage company has called twice already. My child is really sick and medical bills are piling up. Tuition is overdue. One of our cars has just broken down and I had to take three buses to work. The repair bill will be a few thousand. We probably need a new car and we just can’t afford it. I’ve heard my wife crying every day out of fear and frustration.
So I’m at work and some guy, whom I’ve never seen before, stops by my cubicle, hands me a post-it note and says, “Here, call this number.” You’d think he’s nuts, but he says, “Look, just call it.” Then you call the number and it’s to a person at one of your accounts and in the course of the Conversation, you get the biggest sale, not only in your career, but in company history. The commission will be worth TENS of thousands of dollars.
What’s going to be your reaction? You hang up the phone, turn to the guy and ask, “Who are you?” Wouldn’t you be intrigued to find out the answer to that question? If he says, “Well, why don’t you come with me down to Murphy’s Pub right now and find out.” Wouldn’t you drop everything and do it?
When THE WORD – Christ – engages us, he starts with
- Doing what you’re doing,
- Where you’re doing it,
- With the people you’re doing it with.
But even this can be challenging until we realize that it’s not about the phone call or the sale. It’s about the invitation and the drive over to Murphy’s Pub. It’s NOT about what we’re doing, it’s about where we’re focusing – on “the guy.” ON HIM.
Now, how does this look from a practical perspective?
When we focus on “THE GUY, “What do we see? What should be our response? Let’s look at (Psalm 103), “The Lord is kind and merciful.”
- He pardons all your iniquities.
- He heals all your ills.
- He redeems your life from destruction.
- He crowns you with kindness and compassion.
- Pardoning – Our first response is prayer. “Lord, take all our prayers and weave them into your own. Inform our every choice, every struggle with your spirit.”
- Healing – Few things in life, including our own hearts and motives, are black or white, either-or, good or bad. Maturity invites us to see, understand, and accept this complexity. So, be willing to carry more and more of life’s complexities with empathy. That will go a long way towards healing in your life, in our parish, our church, our neighborhood and in our society. (See Fr. Ronald Rohlheiser, The Major Imperatives within Mature Discipleship)
- Redeeming – All of us experience pain or tension. If we do not transform it, we will transmit it. We must be like water purifiers, holding the poisons and toxins that get thrown around in this world inside of us, taking them to prayer, letting The Lord filter them, and giving back just the pure water, rather than being like electrical cords that simply pass on the negative energy that flows from them.
- Crowning with kindness and compassion – In the end there is only one condition for entering heaven (and living inside human community), namely, forgiveness. And it is perhaps the greatest struggle we have ESPECIALLY in the second-half of our lives.
This isn’t easy, this can be challenging. But like I said before, this is a PROCESS.
- If you can’t do it, the prayer has to be “Lord, you have to come down and do this for me.”
- If you can’t do that, then the prayer has to be, “Lord, help me to at least pray that YOU would bless others.
- If you can’t do that, then at least don’t pray for their demise.
This forgiveness thing is not easy. It is a process that begins with your relationship with The Lord, who doesn’t chastise you or force you to do what you are not capable of doing at this moment.
He meets you, and blesses you as you are, where you are. BUT he doesn’t let you stay there. He gently brings you to a place where he can pardon all your iniquities, heal all your ills, redeem your life from destruction, crown you with kindness and compassion………. so you can do the same to others.
Audio file of homily can be found here: