Today’s Gospel is one that’s certainly very familiar to us. But if we’re honest, every time we hear it, it must give us a little bit of uneasiness, right? Because, yes, it is very easy to love those who love us, to do good to those who do good to us, to greet those who greet us. When it comes right down to it, Jesus is right. There is nothing special about loving those we know well, and we certainly look forward to greeting our friends and close family.
But that’s not what the Christian life is about. We know that, but when we get a challenge like today’s Gospel, it hits a little close to home. Because we all know people we’d rather not show kindness to, don’t we. We all have that mental list of people who are annoying or who have wronged us or caused us pain. And to have to greet them, do good to them, even love them, well that all seems too much some days.
And yet that is our call. We’re held to a higher standard than those proverbial tax collectors and pagans that Jesus refers to. We are people of the new covenant, people redeemed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And so we have to live as if we have been freed from our pettiness, because, in fact, we have. Our parish theme this year is welcoming, and, in the light of today’s Gospel, that means welcoming whether it’s convenient or inconvenient, welcoming all those who are in our path, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done. And we welcome that way because that is how Jesus has welcomed us.
We are told to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. That’s a tall order, but a simple kindness to one person we’d rather not be kind to is all it takes to make a step closer.