”Oh! Could you but see the beauty of a soul in the grace of God, you would be so much enamored of it that you would do nothing else but ask souls of God; and, on the contrary, could a soul in mortal sin be placed before your eyes, you would do nothing but weep, and you would hate sin more than the devil himself, and always pray for the conversion of sinners.”--Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
(Gospel text: LK 11:29-32)
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here."
Are we that evil generation today?
It seems to me that Jesus puts this great story to use to point out the slowness of his contemporaries to repent. Why are we so slow to repent? Let me approach this question from a bit of an oblique side.
I’ve come to appreciate the difference between intention and action. I intend to do many things like call, visit, email, speak to, or clean my apartment. I don’t always complete that intention through putting it into action. I delay. I procrastinate. I postpone.
More so, I notice that I sometimes count my intention for action: “I intended to do that, therefore I did it.” “I said I would speak to so-and-so about the matter, therefore I have done it…” (even if I haven’t!) This may be a guy thing. Maybe not, though. But, I observe a lot of guys who also act in this way.
So, what’s the deal? - Seems to me that clarity and honesty are the big deals.
If Jesus really has set us free, why does he still expect us to follow so many rules? And why do his closest friends tend to call themselves his servants? Isn’t freedom about being able to do what we think is best for us and not having to follow someone else?
Here’s where we need to make an important distinction. Yes, our Father does want us to obey his commands, but only because he knows what is best for us. He gives us his laws so that we can flourish and become more and more like his Son. Sin, on the other hand, does not have our best interests in mind—and neither does the devil. All they want is to darken the image of God in us so that we are no longer able to reach our full potential in Christ.
What’s more, God asks us to choose to obey him; the devil wants to take away our free will and treat us more like his puppets than his partners. Our God is not a slave driver. He is a loving Father who delights in showering us with his love and grace every day. Yes, he expects us to obey him, but he is exceedingly generous in helping us every step of the way—and in filling us with joy as we follow him!
Jesus really did come to set us free—free to know his love and receive his grace. Let’s step into that freedom by choosing the path of grace-filled obedience!