Our readings today pick up the sermon that Jesus was giving in last week’s gospel. Last week, he used the formula: “You have heard that it was said… But I say to you…” to raise the bar on living the fifth, sixth and eighth commandments. Merely refraining from actual murder no longer means that we have not murdered in our heart. Never having had an extra-marital affair doesn’t any longer mean that we haven’t committed sexual sin. And never having lied under oath doesn’t mean we haven’t stretched the truth in ways that are sinful. Disciples, people who believe in Christ, are expected to live differently: our faith looks like something, and that something is radical lives of integrity that set out to witness to God’s love in the world.
This week we have a bit more of the same, but this time expressed in terms of positive behavior. Christian disciples, he tells us, are not just to refrain from anything that would tear down another’s life, they are not just to refrain from seeing people as objects, nor are they just to refrain from lying. They are to go beyond all that and give of themselves, even when it doesn’t seem like they would strictly be required to do so. Disciples are to give of themselves even when they themselves have been wronged. They are to do more than the law requires and offer no resistance to evil. Disciples are even to love their enemies, for heaven’s sake!
So what we are seeing over these two weekends’ Scriptures are a completely new message for the people of Israel. Hopefully the message is not a new one for us, but it is, we have to admit, one of which we need to be reminded from time to time. Because it’s really easy to get caught up in our own entitlement, and looking out for number one, and doing what seems best for us. But disciples are called to a different kind of life, one that leads ultimately to the kingdom of heaven. If we’re ever going to attain that eternal reward, we have to bring everyone with us that we can. And to do that, sometimes we’re going to have to let someone else win the argument, or see the good in someone who isn’t presenting a real good side right now. We might even have to go so far as to love and pray for those who are working against us, and trust God to work it all out.
And the thing is, God is trustworthy to work it all out, but sometimes we don’t have faith enough to let him do that. That’s something we have to work on every day. Because if the only one we ever trust in is ourselves, we are destined for a pretty bad end. Even the brightest and best of us have limited ability, and none of us can ever make up to God for the offenses of our sins. So our ability to be okay in bad times goes only as far as we can manage, unless we trust in the Father’s care.
Today, we have a video from our bishop about the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. The diocese serves almost 700,000 Catholics in our seven-county area. Some of the other ways the appeal helps us is by funding Young Adult and Youth Ministry programs, by nights of shelter and housing were provided to the homeless through Catholic Charities. The Catholic Schools Office assists and gives direction to our own school and others, and is assisting us as we search for a new principal for our school, and the office of Faith Formation helps train and direct catechists.
I know you’re hearing about our capital campaign. I appreciate all that you are doing to support that as well as our weekly offertory. The diocese assists us in so many ways, and so many of the poor and needy depend on their work. So I just ask you to be as generous as you can. Our ushers will now pass out the pledge envelopes, and I ask you to please fill it out as we watch the video. We will then collect them right after the video. If you wish to take the envelope home and pray about it, you can return it next week. Thank you for doing that.
Our Psalmist today reminds us that “The Lord is kind and merciful,” which is the theme of this year’s CMAA. God is never outdone in generosity, and so when we extend ourselves to those in need, when we give above and beyond what is strictly required, when we love those who maybe don’t love us, and even pray for our enemies, we can trust that God will give us all that we need and bless us in ways that we may never have expected. Trust in the Father’s care: that’s what our Scriptures and this year’s appeal ask us to do. It’s sound advice, and I pray that we would all take note of it!