Sunday, February 12, 2017
Last Sunday, we had about thirty of our parish 8th graders Confirmed by Bishop Campbell. It was a wonderful celebration. I have had the honor to assist the Bishop with several Confirmations in the past, and I love the parting command he gives to the Confirmandi at the end of Mass. I am paraphrasing here, but he says to them: remember your dignity as Christian men and women – a dignity that you must honor and protect and even defend at all times and under all circumstances. And I will humbly add now to that command: that this dignity comes from God, who made us, who made us in His image and likeness, and who wants nothing more than for us to know true and lasting happiness and peace, which comes from being in relationship with our loving God. I feel like a broken record, or skipping CD, or whatever kids listen to nowadays when I speak of this. But this is such Good News for us, especially in the culture in which we now live, so I want to share with you over and over again. And, in a special way, today’s readings give us an important insight into this truth. In the great love God has for us, he gives us the choice to be in relationship with Him. In fact, as the First Reading reminds us, not only do we have a choice, but out of great love for us, whatever choice we make God will give us what we choose: If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him. How wonderful! How awesome! Well, today’s Gospel reveals even more about this relationship God created for us to experience, this relationship God desires for us. God has given us commandments for how to be in relationship with Him – think of them as guardrails, an instruction manual, or street signs to guide us and help us. On one level, Jesus reminds his disciples and us that these laws given by God thousands of years ago are necessary and important, and are to be followed even today. Jesus goes on to challenge his disciples and us to do even more than just the minimum that the law requires. He knows that we can and actually want to do more, and he is challenging us in our relationship with God and others to do more than what we have done in the past, to exceed what others may have set as an example or expectation for us, and to go even further than what we ever thought we were capable of doing. And we do this all the time in our lives, right? When we are engaged in, committed to, and excited about something, then we are willing and able to push beyond our comfort zone and go further than we ever imagined. For those that play sports, we do more than just show up for the game – we are willing and able to train in the off-season, do the extra reps in the weight room or practice field when we are fully committed to the team and winning. The same in the workplace; we are willing to arrive early and stay late, and do more than what the job description outlines when we are fully engaged at work. And the same is true in marriage; we are willing to be present to our spouse even when things are not easy or fun; we are willing to sacrifice our own wants and needs for our spouse. The same is true in the love relationship with God. And in today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenging us to do more. It is not enough to just avoid murder, but we are challenged to avoid the anger that may lead to murder; and even further, we are challenged to go to great lengths to seek forgiveness for any anger that we may have for another. Jesus is also challenging us that it is not enough to just avoid adultery; He is challenging us to also avoid lust or anything that would dishonor the vows of marriage and the dignity of another person. Additionally, Jesus challenges us to avoid divorce and uphold the loving, unbreakable bond of marriage, to go the extra mile to repair a fractured marriage, and if the marriage has failed, then to uphold the dignity of your spouse, to seek forgiveness for your faults and failings, and to show great charity to your spouse and children And finally, Jesus is challenging us to not hide behind false or misleading statements, but to always speak truthfully, directly, honestly – to be open and transparent in all that you say – to Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' I will conclude with my own challenge to you. Pray this week over these challenges Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel. Which one are you struggling with the most? Which one have you failed? Which one do you need the most help with? (If you don’t like any of these four, come back next weekend as this Gospel passage continues with two more challenges for you to discern!) Choose one to be your focus this Lent. Choose to reject sin and anything that leads you to sin – any person, place or thing that will lead you away from God’s love. And recall today’s First Reading: whatever you choose will be given to you by our loving God. I pray that you choose to be in relationship with God, to follow his will and commands in your life. May God bless you.
Posted by Jeffrey Fortkamp at 3:52 AM