Homily for Feb 23 2020

  • In your heart of hearts,

have you ever had the thought that maybe, just maybe,

God asks too much of us?

that God is actually sort of unreasonable in what he expects of us?


  • The scriptures we just heard

might prompt us to have just those thoughts.

These scriptures are chock full of “hard sayings,”

words that are as difficult to hear as they are to fulfill.


  • You heard them:

In Leviticus, the Lord told us:


- Don’t carry in your heart any hatred towards your neighbor

which means, don’t carry in your heart any ill will,

old grudges or resentments towards your neighbor…


- Take care to love your neighbor,

to care for your neighbor, as tenderly and generously

as you care for yourself…


- And who is my neighbor?  EVERYONE!


And the scriptures admit of no exceptions to this rule,

so that means my neighbor goes by the name of:

Trump, Weld, Bloomberg, Biden, Warren, Buttigieg,

Sanders, Klobuchar and Patrick…


Indeed, it does seem that some times God asks too much of us!


  • And more hard sayings in the gospel, where Jesus told us:


- If someone asks you to do a favor,

do twice as much as you were asked to do…


- Love.  Your. Enemies.

- Pray for those who persecute you, which means pray for those:

who annoy you         

who anger you                                                                                             

who cheat you          

who gossip  about you

who forget you         

who disappoint you

who betray you        

who steal from you

who lie to you                       

who abandon you    

who deny you           

who disagree with you

who hurt you            

and who take advantage of you …


I know the names and faces I remember and think of

when I hear that list.


What names and faces come to your mind and heart?

Jesus calls us to pray for those who, in all these ways, persecute us.


  • And the hardest hard saying of them all?

 “Be holy! Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I’m pretty sure everyone here probably wants to be a good person

- and to be known as a good person.


But how many of us want to be holy?

How many of us would feel comfortable

being identified, known, as a holy person?


  • We’re usually more comfortable with holiness

as a quality we admire in others

 (Jesus, Mother Teresa, or our grandmother

who goes to Mass every day and prays the Rosary)

- but I’m not sure holiness is something we feature

or strive for or want for ourselves.


  • And insofar as we think of holiness as somethingtoopious,

spiritually over the top,  even odd or quirky

to that degree, holiness might even be something we don’t want.


  • But here’s the Lord calling us to be as holy- as holy as God is holy -

which is almighty holy!  


Of course, in the scriptures,

holiness isn’t something odd or quirky, quaint or pious,

It’s certainly not something weak or submissive.


The holiness in these texts is challenging, demanding and strong.

It’s a holiness that calls us to make no room in our hearts for hatred.


  • Now, most of us probablydon’t think of ourselves

as holding hatred in our hearts.


But many of us do maintain - in our otherwise  good hearts -

we do keep a little corner

reserved for our less-than-holy thoughts and feelings about

this one or that one, that group or this;

about this political party or that church authority;

about a particular person in my past (or my present);

about my ex,  my competitor, my boss or an employee
about a coworker, classmate or neighbor...


  • We keep a corner, a closet, a kitchen-draw in our hearts

where we collect and hold our grudges and resentments.

But a good heart - and certainly a holy heart -

makes no room for such feelings -

no more than a farmer would keep a corner of his field

for growing weeds.


  • Weeds drain the goodness from the soil and eventually spread,

laying waste to the field and its crop.

Unloving, unholy thoughts and feelings

sap the goodness from our hearts and often multiply,

choking off the harvest of our better words and deeds.


  • A good heart, a holy heart, makes no room for weeds

but rather is vigilant

lest ill-will  and hard feelings take root

and yield a bitter, sour harvest of hate.


  • A good heart, a holy heart, doesn’t seek retaliation or retribution

but rather always seeks what’s good, what’s best, for one’s neighbor


  • A good heart, a holy heart doesn’t oppose evil with evil

- no matter how satisfying and tempting that may be -

but rather stands tall in the face of what’s wrong,

willing to bear and suffer the consequences of fidelity to the truth

even when doing so takes its toll on my ease and comfort.


  • While a good heart gives to someone in need,

a holy heart gives until the giving makes a difference

in the life of the giver

as well as in the life of the one who receives.


In other words:

just being good isn’t good enough for Christians,

For followers of Jesus.

Jesus calls us to aspire to a goodness deeper

than that of the average Joe or Joan...


As Jesus says: even pagans love those who love them.


Holy people

(and every single one of us is called to strive for holiness)

holy people have a greater, deeper, stronger love to offer.


They love even those, they love especially those

who do not or can not or will not love them in return.


Good and holy people love even their enemies

and they pray for those who persecute them,

who make their lives miserable.


  • In the gospel here Jesus calls us to love -

as God loves:

not sparingly, not grudgingly - but fully, deeply, robustly.


Jesus calls us to love as God loves:

not with strings attached or looking for something in return,

but freely, selflessly and generously.


Jesus calls us to love as God loves:

not with hidden pockets of anger and resentment

but with peace, mercy and forgiveness.


  • God loves each of us from a heart of holiness,

and calls each of us to strive to love one another

 (even and especially our enemies)

with the same generosity of heart.


And just so we don’t forget… Who are those “enemies?”

Who are those who “persecute us?”


They are those who

who annoy us                                   

anger us

cheat us                    

gossip about us

forget us

disappoint us

betray us       

steal from us

lie to us                      

abandon us

deny us

disagree with us

hurt us

and take advantage of us…


  • This week we begin the season of Lent,

40 days set apart for us to examine our hearts

in light of the hard sayings we found in today’s scriptures.

Lent is a time to turn our hearts around,

to weed out what doesn’t belong in our hearts

and to cultivate what does.


  • It was someone with more than just a good heart

who gave his life for us on the Cross:

the heart of Jesus

whose life, whose body and blood,

we share at this altar

in the bread and cup of communion.


  • May the sacrament we share at this table

nourish in each of us a desire to be holy,

- to be holy even as our Father in heaven is holy.