24 February 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
Samuel 26, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 + Psalm 103
1 Corinthians 15, 45-49 + Luke 6, 27-38
For most of my 51 years as a priest, I have been involved in the lives of young people through Youth Ministry and through the Catholic Schools at parishes where I served. One thing I learned early on, and nothing ever contradicted it was that children resemble their parents. In my own family, I watch the children of my sister and brother-in-law, and it’s amazing how they reproduce again and again not just the things their parents have said, but how they act. My sister and I often would begin to laugh when one of us sounded like or reacted like our parents. Every now and then, my sister would say something just like Mom, and I would say: “Watch out! She’s back.”
That reality goes even beyond family systems and genes. The truth of the matter is that when we call ourselves “Children of God” we are expressing not just a fact of faith, but an expectation about our mind, our hearts, and our behavior. Today’s verses from Luke’s Gospel follow the Sermon of last week with a further description of the “Blessed” as Jesus continues to lay out the life-style of those who want to call themselves “Children of God” or “Christian.” What Jesus puts before us is an ethic that leads us quite beyond what is normal, civil, or reasonable. In fact, if we are going to understand this and shape our lives around, we have to accept the fact that there is nothing “normal”, “civil” or “reasonable” about this. Catholic Christianity is not primarily a moral teaching. It is the way to salvation. It is a way of sharing the power and freedom of God giving us resources to move deeply into the life of God himself. In other words, when we begin to understand and act like God, we are going to begin to become extravagant, almost unreasonable, and by some judgement, mad, because God’s ways make no sense in this world.
It does not make any sense to do good to those who harm you. They will just harm you again. It makes no sense to turn the cheek and accept another slap once you’ve been hit. What sense is there in giving your cloak and your underwear. Now you’ll be cold. What we discover is what runs in our family: extravagant generosity. It shows itself in a simple formula Luke develops in these verses: Love, Do good to, Bless, and Pray for. We are going nowhere in terms of faith, spiritual life, discipleship, or salvation until we get serious about this. Luke is running a school of discipleship that is intent on changing the way we think as well as the way we act.
We can live without retaliation. We can be extravagant with everything we have including forgiveness. We can surrender our rights, and we can stop judging others all because God can. This is the source of our spiritual power and the model after which we shape our lives. For real disciples of Christ, these are not just performances done out of obligation. They will be a visible concrete manifestation of a deep inner reality: the transformation that has taken place in our lives as we die to self and rise in Christ. God’s plan and God’s ways will be our plan and our only way.