Deacon Tom's Homily for Thursday June 14th


Our Gospel for today is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus lays out the vision of the Kingdom and invites us to accept it and live it. He tells us that we cannot be satisfied with surface behavior that follows the forms but leaves out the substance of love. In short, our interior motives are as important as our exterior actions. The scribes and Pharisees were concerned about the physical observance of Mosaic Law. Jesus challenges us to go deeper than what the law requires on the outside and purify our motives for our actions. The most important motive is the love of God and neighbor.

This challenge means that love of God and neighbor are more important than worship observance. Worship is not downgraded here but it means that we should come to worship with clean hands and a clean heart. Isaiah and the other great prophets continually criticized people who made great offerings and oppressed the poor, the orphans and the widows, as if God could be bought off and pleased while the poor neighbor would be robbed and persecuted. If we approve of or are aware of public policy, even if we are not personally engaged, that hurts those whom Jesus holds out to us[1], we are interiorly creating something against our brothers and sisters. Jesus told his disciples in the twenty fifth chapter of Matthew, “…as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me”.

As a current example, our United States Council of Catholic Bishops has expressed grave concern about our immigration “zero tolerance” practice to separate children from parents seeking asylum at the border with Mexico. We, and the Bishops, know that developing an impartial immigration policy presents many challenges for any country. Any policy always involves reconciling domestic priorities and global demands. But, at its core, immigration policy is about people, young and old, alone or in families, often fearful and abandoned. Immigration policy is a moral question that cannot be separated from decisions of what it is right and wrong, of justice and injustice. It is about respecting and reverencing the dignity of the human person.

Jesus is a demanding teacher. Christianity is a demanding faith. We will continually fall short, but what Jesus is asking is not impossible, just demanding. God’s very essence is a unity of love – three persons, one nature. We are made in God’s image, and we are made to live forever in union with God. But so too are our brothers and sisters, everywhere. If we have done anything to wound the union of love with those around us, then we must repair the breach. In fact, it is so important to God, and so important for us, that God will not accept our “offering” if we have consciously wounded the unity with those around us. Bring those particularly difficult relationships to prayer and draw the strength from God to love as we should. He will not ask for some virtue and then refuse his grace.

I end today with a beautiful prayer from Eusebius, a Third century Roman citizen and a convert to Christianity who became bishop of Caesarea: "May I be no man's enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me: and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good. May I wish for all men's happiness and envy none. May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me. When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends. May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another. May I never fail a friend who is in danger. When visiting those in grief may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances. May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done but know good men and follow in their footsteps."

A beautiful prayer we could all take to heart.

[1] Matthew 25:31-45