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2/24/19 Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deacon Tony

Deacon Tony Conti

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 81

  • Jesus’ teachings on the love of one’s enemies are found in both the Gospel of Luke as well as Matthew’s Gospel…
  • In Matthew’s version, Jesus ends His teaching with the following statement: “So be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect…”
  • We can often misinterpret Mathew’s version of this teaching… and this can have a dramatic impact on how we see our faith, and how live our lives…
  • St. Luke (6:36) ends this same teaching today, with the words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
  • What a difference... We may not be able to be perfect... But we have little excuse for not being merciful...
  • We’re all broken in many and varied ways, so how can God call us to a state of perfection?
  • Perhaps the real question here is what we visualize as perfection in this life
  • There are two types of perfection… Physical perfection, and Spiritual perfection…
  • Physical perfection involves the material world… It generally involves how proficient we can become at some endeavor…
  • Striving for physical perfection in the world is admirable, as long as we don’t take it to such extremes that we neglect or hurt others in the process…
  • The perfection that Jesus calls us to however; is “Spiritual” perfection - What many might refer to as “holiness…”
  • If we see spiritual perfection as living a “sinless life,” or as living a “perfect life”… than we’re bound to become frustrateddisheartened… and even be tempted to give up altogether
  • But is this really what Jesus is calling us to?
  • I was once reminded that holiness is not realized through the absence of sin, but rather through the presence of God
  • Holiness has nothing to do with separating ourselves from humanity... it has nothing to do with willpower and the ability to resist temptation...  and it has nothing to do with asceticism...
  • God isn’t asking for our worship – He’s asking for our imitation...
  • And the most perfect imitation of God is to love...
  • We imitate God by being merciful… not by trying or pretending to be perfect
  • Therefore in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus commands us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfectHe’s really commanding us to love
  • Because spiritual perfection, (holiness), can only be found in God, Who is Love……
  • When we’re merciful… When we choose to love… We imitate God Who is perfect
  • Unfortunately, we often measure ourselves and others against the world’s view of perfection, leading us to the inevitable “let down,” when either we, or they, fail to measure up ...
  • Mercy, compassion, kindness, and love are what make us human
  • Holiness is best found in striving to become fully human...
  • In fact we’re most Christ-like when we’re most human...
  • Holiness is steeped in compassion and mercy and forgiveness...
  • Holiness is found in learning how to love...
  • That’s why holiness is available to all human beings in all states of life... because we’re all called to choose love in whatever situation we find ourselves…
  • Brennan Manning wrote the following: “The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves.  The sweet sound of Amazing Grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception.  It keeps us from denying that the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us.  As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me.  When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit that I have failed.  God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am.  Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him.”  (The Ragamuffin Gospel, Pg. 23).
  • Isn’t that what our Christian walk is all about – To take the promises of Christ at face value and to dare to live each day as forgiven men and women?
  • Yet – How many of us instead, prefer to dwell on our imperfections?
  • Our salvation doesn’t hinge on our ability and strength to resist temptation – It hinges upon our Faith – Our belief in Christ – and on our conviction of God’s love for us...
  • As long as we depend upon our accomplishments and upon the love of the world to define our self-worth – We’ll never be able to find true peace or happiness in this life...
  • It often takes a lifetime to begin to internalize God’s deep love for us... A lifetime of struggle and pain, only to learn that we never needed to earn God’s love in the first place.... That it was there all along...
  • Our transformation into God’s very image can only occur by learning to love as Jesus lovesby learning to become merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful
  • Christianity isn’t about getting everything right in our lives…
  • It’s not about working our way into heaven through our good works…
  • And… It’s not about having all of the answers to all of the hard questions in life…
  • Christianity is about living and proclaiming the Good News that we are Redeemed Sons and Daughters of a most merciful and loving Creator
  • Christianity proclaims the Good News of a God Who says to each of us:
  • I know that you’re incapable of getting everything right – But I still love you
  • I know that your willpower and strength are limited and weak at times – But I understand
  • I know that you’re incapable of grasping the mystery that is God – But that’s not necessary
  • This is the message of Christianity that we all too soon forget
  • The perfection referenced by Jesus in the Gospel of Mathew is not the perfection that the world recognizes…
  • Like the Gospels themselves… It’s a contrarian interpretation of perfection which has little to do with being sinless, and everything to do with our ability to give and receive love
  • The whole of Christ’s teachings, the true nature of God, and our vocations as Baptized Christians are all encapsulated in this one line from today’s gospel...
    • Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful...

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