Don’t Be Judgemental

Peace and grace to you!

Today’s readings remind me of Flannery O’Connor’s stories “Revelation” or “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  I also recall Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”

The principles that Jesus is teaching today inspired these authors to describe situations that depict great injustices by societies, individuals and even whole classes of race toward other people.

We might label this kind of behavior as “Log-in-the-eye-disease” or “Cancel-culture.”

Jesus is asking us to be honest with ourselves about the way we treat others.  He is saying that frequently we quickly point out the faults and failings of others while overlooking our own greater faults and failings.  Darkness and hardness of heart are the root of viewing people wrongfully and this results in wrongful judgement.  Grudges and long-standing prejudices close out the light of the Gospel.  Jesus names it as evil and not capable of good fruit.  That means no happiness, no peace, no friends, no joy and no glorifying God.  If we, who are baptized into Christ, are suffering from log-in-the-eye syndrome, we are hypocrites and merit a hypocrite’s reward.

The remedy?  Listen to Jesus and follow him.  It helps to first consider that we don’t completely know another person’s story.  We must be able to identify bad behavior but that is a long way from condemning a person. Will Rogers said: “Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement.”  If we begin from a perspective of understanding that all of us need room to make mistakes, that all of us need God’s mercy, we avoid being hypocrites, we don’t cancel other people.  We become better friends of God and our neighbor.  Blessings to you! +++ Fr. Peter

Be Merciful!

Peace and Grace to you!

The Kingdom of Heaven experience requires a radical break from natural to spiritual maturity.

In the first reading, David has an opportunity to “pay back” Saul for all his meanness and dirty dealing toward David.  Saul is jealous and behaves as jealous is: hateful and mean.  David, on his part, demonstrates spiritual maturity through a willful desire to obey God’s Word.  David’s love for God moves him beyond seeking his own form/desire of justice into seeking what pleases God.  David’s experience of receiving injustice has not hardened his heart, it has brought about the divine fruit and trait of compassion.  He shows wisdom and spiritual maturity, magnanimity of character, by showing mercy to Saul.  David recognizes that God established Saul in leadership, and it is God who will deal with Saul, just as God will deal with David himself.  Is this perspective valued toward public leaders and all leaders of communities today?  With corruption so widespread in the world today, it makes it more important to address the wrongs with a renewed respect for the importance of the rule of law.

In the Gospel we continue with the Sermon on the Plain.  Jesus knows well that human nature is strongly inclined to move in the wrong direction (concupiscence).  He sets forth some radical instructions.  They’re radical because they move us beyond our natural inclinations to return a strike for a strike.  Instead, Jesus directs us to a spiritual maturity that leads us into a Kingdom of Heaven experience and friendship with God.  If Jesus is delivering this set of principles to us, then he is instructing us to be his disciples and he will help us live them out.  No matter how difficult and no matter if we fail, we must be found in pursuit of living the principles of Christian life as best as we can.  “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” is not an option to the believer but a goal at heart.  Putting away an insult or criticism saves a life (you shall not kill).  Saving a life saves the world one at a time.  Blessings to you! +++ Fr. Peter

Trust In God!

Peace and grace to you!

As we listen to Jeremiah’s lamentations and hard-earned wisdom about the frailty and fickleness of human beings, we are given a stern reminder that in the end, God is the only one where we can place our ultimate trust.  Luke’s Gospel is the sermon on the plain in which are included the blessed (happy) and the woes (sorrows).

Jesus gives a message of hope for those who are poor, hungry, grieving, or experiencing hate from others because of their faith in God.  Jesus shows how compassionate God is.  God cares about every person’s human experience, and he reminds us that our situation in life is always changing but faith hope and trust in God will help them transcend any situation and lead to a good outcome.

While expressing a message of hope to those without, Jesus seems to be warning those who have possessions, wealth, comfort and friendship that they are enjoying what will not last.  He cautions people against placing their trust and confidence in the present situation or things, rather than in God.  Change will come and their experience will be sadness.  This set of blessed and woes can also be understood as an encouragement to use what we have wisely: as good stewards we consider what we have and remember there are those who need.

Stewardship is an invitation to partner with God and make God the priority and director over all that one has.  The greatest gift that we have is divine love.  God gifts us with his own life and love in the Eucharist.  We are stewards of this!

“Woe to you” can be turned around and become “blessed are you” when we are good stewards!

Blessed, fortunate and happy are you who are rich in money, power, influence, time and talent because you can do much for the poor, the marginalized, the alien, mentally ill, the prisoner and the lonely!  You can lift another’s burden!  If we have the heart and mind of Christ to recognize the needy as God’s children and act to care for them, God increases our joy.  In the large vision, we recognize that we need them as much as they need us!  We can experience the blessedness of the kingdom when we place ourselves and our possessions in God’s service.  May God continue to enrich you in every way! +++ Fr. Peter

Hear God’s Call!

Peace to you!

We have been reflecting the last few weeks on a kind of process through which God calls people and the encounter changes their lives forever.  Soon afterward, they become disciples.  A few weeks ago we heard Samuel’s story and how he had to learn how to listen and discern that God sometimes calls in the night when we are not so occupied with daily activity or when there is darkness or emptiness in our lives.

Isaiah explains how terrified he is at his vision of the “Lord of Hosts.”  He acknowledges that he is unworthy to be in the presence of God and fears death but the angel calms his fears by cleansing him.  Isaiah experiences God’s mercy and it changes him forever!  Filled with holy joy and loving zeal, he responds to God’s call “here I am, send me!”

St. Paul expresses something similar to Isaiah’s sense of personal unworthiness and we remember the story of his encounter with the risen Lord.  St. Paul was changed by his encounter and responded to God’s call in the same way as Isaiah: filled with holy joy, he was sent to proclaim the Good News!

This weekend we hear the story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, James and John.  Jesus invites them to leave their boats and nets to follow him and become fishers of men.  Like Isaiah and Saul, Peter was immediately seized with fear and in response to that Jesus immediately calmed him with the words “Do not be afraid.”  Like Isaiah and the others, Peter’s life was forever changed.

The call stories are always interesting and powerful for us because they help us focus on listening and following God in new and deeper ways.  They also remind us that, like others in the past, God is calling us today!  He calls us to follow him closely and experience something new, of how wonderful he is and through that experience to be changed forever.  It is normal to feel a little uncertain or afraid at first but with each new experience, our faith that Lord is at our side grows.  God bless you in your journey and mission to join our ancestors in faith in the joy of proclaiming the Gospel! +++ Fr. Peter