I was recently in a discussion about today’s Scripture readings. Someone asked the question whether there is a trend in vocations today, whether in the priesthood, married – or religious life. The question was whether people are “commodifying the vocation.” Take the conversation between parents and their children for example:
Can I have the car keys
Can I borrow some money for gas
Can I use one of your Starbucks gift cards for breakfast
When the parent says NO to one or several of these requests, they hear …
If you really loved me ….
How about the pastor of a parish. Is it not possible that he hears,
Can I have my wedding here?
Can I get a godparent certificate?
Can we rent the gym for our party?
When the pastor says NO to one or several of these requests, he hears …
If you were a real Christian …..
It makes us look like Amazon. People come when they want something. Isn’t a vocation more than just a supplier of needs? Isn’t love more than providing stuff to make people happy?
Father Matt Guckin reflects on what Christ means by “Gospel love” in today’s Gospel. He talks about how the Jews – the “chosen people” of God – were “chosen to choose.” They were chosen so that their daily decisions about everything in life – big and small, monumental or insignificant – would be seen and noticed by others. Their choices would reflect a lifestyle and relationship that would make no sense unless there was God.
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching – Solutions Designed for Men. As an expert in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today, he regularly appears on The Huffington Post, PsychCentral and the financial advice site NerdWallet.
In the article, “Love is a Choice More Than a Feeling,” Dr. Smith writes that,
Once we have made the decision that we have found the person we want to be with and commit to, the work begins. A big part of that work is making many other choices.
Love is all about choices. We choose to see the good, ignore the petty, look for what we could do for our partner, and remember why we love our partner. Choosing to put in the effort in order to do these things, is what love looks like, and with that work comes the wonderful reward of staying in love.
So “Gospel love” is first about consciously and intentionally making love decisions. There’s a second factor in play here too. It’s what Pope Francis call “Accompaniment.” Letting Christ “accompany” you through His Word. Letting Christ “accompany” you through the encounter of the sacraments. Letting Christ “accompany” you through a loving encounters with others.
And that leads to the third component of Gospel love. Gospel love is not about a program. Programs do not preach and save. People do. Gospel love is about transformative relationships. Look, we all have our “stuff.” It’s the dark side of us that we carry around. You have to decide what you’re going to do with this stuff. You’ll either transform it – or you’ll transfer it. It’s either redeemed – or it’s relocated onto others.
One guy said that the myriad of small, daily decisions to intentionally love his wife and consciously his children is transformative. It makes him a bigger and better man. It also affects, and transforms them as well. And if he didn’t make these daily decisions, his wife and kids wouldn’t get redeemed either, and he’d probably live life inside a bottle.
But can you do this on your own? I asked this question, flat out, to the men in my Gospel reflection group. We are a diverse group. We include men – young and old – with a wide variety of experiences. We come from different cultures. We have different levels of education. The comment was made that it’s possible -maybe. But they were skeptical. But, to a man, this diverse group finds it hard to love without something else helping them along. It’s just too easy to act like stubborn, overly-independent children, instead of gladly leaning on the wisdom, strength, and goodness of our heavenly Father.
I’ll close with a quote from a scripture scholar:
The fuel of our Christian life comes from God. If we have experienced frustration in our efforts to follow Christ more closely, it could be because we have forgotten this basic truth. Today, let’s renew our dependence on God; let’s renew our confidence in him. Gospel love is first showing true Christian hospitality to the love of God, that wants to come in and transform our lives.
Audio version of the homily is here: