Friday, July 25, 2014
Homily - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - July 13, 2014
1 Pt. 3:8-15; Mt. 5:20-24
Today’s Gospel comes to us from the section of the Gospel of Matthew which is the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, the charter of the people of God He has come to found. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers.” He goes on to say what He tells us in today’s Gospel. It is not enough for His disciples simply to avoid grave sin, but they must also grow in charity. He says, “You have heard it said, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ what I say to you is you shall not be angry with your brother. Both are rooted in the same vice, that of hatred. But rather than any kind of hatred among His disciples, He asks that they and we be reconcilers.
This is a wonderful grace. In the lifetimes of many of us here, there is already no place on the face of the earth which has not been thoroughly explored. We have plumbed the oceans. We have sent our rockets and aimed our telescopes deep into space. But the last and greatest frontier is the human heart. It is from there that good deeds and harmful deeds originate. It is place where the Kingdom of God begins, which our Lord has said so many times in the Gospel, and to which St. Peter alludes in our Epistle today. It is the place where our Lord has come to address His disciples and all the world.
You and I well know that human nature, under the influence of original sin, left to itself, does not tend toward reconciliation, but to division and violence. And this is why conversion, any conversion, is such a triumph of grace and for the Kingdom which Jesus has come to establish. Jesus gives us the possibility of true reconciliation in the world.
The Lord helps us to be reconcilers, first by His teaching. Today, in our Epistle, St. Peter tells us, “It is better to suffer for a just cause, than for an unjust one.” If we suffer because of the kindness we do, in the order of grace we unite ourselves with the Lord and contribute to the growth of His Kingdom. Our beloved and late Holy Father, Pope St. John Paul II, put it in another psychological way, “It is better to be the victim than the perpetrator.”
He teaches us forgiveness. We recall that passage in the Gospel where St. Peter asks our Lord, “How many times must I forgive, seven times?” And he thinks he is being generous. And our Lord replies, “Not seven but seventy times seven.” Why, because sometimes that is how much people offend us. Christian forgiveness does not mean we have to say what a person has done is alright. Often, what people do is not alright. But only to say that we do not have to hold onto it. As often as the strong emotions appear, I give it to God. “Lord, I don’t have to hold onto this. I put it in your hands.” And we experience the peace He so much wants for us.
He helps us by His example. He is the Reconciler. In His cross and resurrection, He has stood in the place of every sinner, and overcome every offense, so that all may stand in His place, beloved sons and daughters with Him of the Father.
He helps us by the gift of sanctifying grace. The divine life dwells within us. The Holy Ghost gives us promptings, and enlightens our intellect to know the truth and strengthens our will to choose the good.
Someone once said, “I will destroy my enemies by making them my friends.” That is the long way. That is the difficult way. But it is the only way, by a change of heart. Christ has done this. And if we cannot, given the circumstances of the world and of our lives, at least we can have that change of heart, and trust in the grace of God. The stakes are high, because if Christians cannot do this, with the grace God has given us, there is no hope for the world. Whereas, if we do, we become signs in the world of the reconciliation won for us by Christ.
We celebrate in this and every Mass the one Sacrifice of Christ whereby He has reconciled the world to Himself. As we participate in this Mass, He wants us to be reconcilers, too. It begins with the heart, where we can have, at once, the spirit of reconciliation, and we know then what the Lord called the blessedness of peacemakers.