Saturday, May 31, 2008


(9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, A)

Today we resume our reading of the gospel of St. Matthew, which we interrupted way back after February 3rd to enter into the journey of Lent and Easter. As we return to Matthew, today we hear Jesus’ words at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Having offered all of his beautiful moral teaching on loving our enemies and avoiding retaliation in anger, on praying earnestly from the heart and avoiding the false religion of human righteousness and pride, and on our need in all these things to be light for the world, Jesus simply leaves the decision in our hands. We can accept and try to follow his teaching and be like the wise one who built his house on rock, or we can let Jesus’ words ‘go in one ear and out the other’ and be like the fool who built his house on sand.

This is exactly how God behaves. God does not ‘lord it over’ the world. He does not dominate us against our will. God does not bark out his orders or his will. God speaks softly to the heart (and if we’re never quiet we will never hear his Word!) and waits patiently for us to turn to him. God gives us the ultimate respect of personal freedom, and though it must give God great pain of heart to see what we often do with it, God would never take it away. Our freedom is part of our imitation of our Creator; part of how we are created in God’s “image and likeness.” God lets us choose. Will we seek him and try to follow his Word? Or will we quietly decide in our hearts that “God” really has no bearing on our lives and become at best “cultural Catholics”?

In his divine and perfect humility, God leaves the choice to us. We hear the same thing in the first reading today. Having given to the people the whole of the Law that God revealed to him, Moses sets the Law before them as a decision to be blessed or cursed, of choosing Life or death.

The choice to seek God and to listen to his Word is not something we can do once and for all. We must do it anew each day. If we practice hard and get good at it we can do it at every moment. We must train ourselves to choose to see things from God’s perspective—and we can do this because the divine Life lives within us through faith, through prayer, and especially through the Holy Communion we celebrate in this Eucharist. These empower us to see the world around us from God’s own blessed perspective rather than from our own, which is both limited in scope and often blurred in perspective by our sins.

Here’s one of my favorite examples. Before I entered the religious life I worked in a group home with adults who had so-called mental retardation and developmental disabilities. One day I was out with a co-worker and a couple of the clients taking a walk in the park. The four of us were just quietly enjoying the day. Someone going by the other way was staring at my co-worker’s client and we heard him say, “That’s so sad.” Well, my co-worker got right in the guy’s face and said about her client, “This woman works hard and is living at, like, ninety-eight percent of her potential as a human being…how do you stack up that?” And the guy was speechless.

This story from my old job just makes the point that we can decide how we look at things. We can look at ourselves, each other, and our society as limited, broken, and in a dire condition, or we can decide and train ourselves to see ourselves and each other from God’s infinitely positive and eternally gentle perspective.

The poet Gil Scott-Heron famously proclaimed, “The revolution will not be televised.” What we meant was that what can bring about real change in our society can never be seen out there, because it has to happen in here first [in the head and heart]. He says, the real revolution happens, “when we change our minds, about how we look at things.” And this is something we can do each day and each moment. We can choose to see things from the perspective of the kingdom of God. That is why the Word of God became one of us in Jesus Christ and why Jesus brings us into communion with his humanity in the Eucharist, so that the divine perspective might come of live inside us and give us the power to see things from God’s point of view.

This is the perspective that can change the world, if only we accept it. If only we let go of all the self-hate and condemnation of each other that we have trapped ourselves in with our selfishness and sin, and accept the kind and generous perspective that God has on the world.

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