Tuesday, March 18, 2014

“It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and our job to love.”

This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. - C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

Gospel Text: (MT 23:1-12)
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

In the gospel today at Mass Jesus is very clear about our responsibilities to one another: “You are all brothers”. This statement was shocking, even revolutionary. Kinship was the most important social force in the ancient Mid-East. We are as responsible for the well-being of brothers and sisters in Christ as we are for our own blood relatives in the eyes of God. As kin, their problems are automatically ours as well. So Jesus says.

Think for a moment of the burdens carried by single mothers in our parishes, struggling to make ends meet. Or the victims of spousal abuse. What about those who took what seemed the only recourse available to them – divorce? Do we help lift their burdens? Do we include them in our communal life? Do we feel responsible for them? Or do we stigmatize or look down on them? Pope Francis’ famous words should be on our lips as well: “Who am I to judge?”

We’re quite good, actually, at helping the victims of disasters, at least in the short term. As “victims”, they were innocent. Do we feel less compassion for those whose plight may have arisen in part from their own bad choices – who are, in our view, less “deserving”? We should ask ourselves how God looks on us and our own bad choices.

Pope Francis has told us that, when we enter so deeply into the wounds of our brothers and sisters that we feel them ourselves, we are filled with compassion – and ultimately with gratitude as well.

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