Jesus saves his harshest words for the Pharisees and the religious leaders of his time. When they challenged him, he would regularly accuse them of being “hypocrites” as they consistently say one thing but did another. Jesus was brutal on them and in Sunday’s gospel; he is particularly harsh. Why does he do this? Mostly because he expected more from them as they knew the scriptures very well and he complimented them on their knowledge of the scriptures but challenged them to really live it. They were not humble. They did not accept they themselves also made mistakes and they did not always live up to the high standards of the law that they preached.
We can find ourselves in an equally precarious position and I find no little irony in that I say this as a religious leader of this time. I have made lots of mistakes and am quite sure I will continue to make mistakes both personally in my life as a disciple and as your pastor.
The reality of all of our lives is that there is good and bad in all of us. It would great if all our friends did all good things and all our enemies did bad things. However, the reality of life is that this is not true. We and our friends often do things, even if unintentionally, that end up being bad and our enemies will do things that are not all bad. That is reality.
The question is then how to succeed in doing more good things than bad things. You will not be surprised to hear me say that we need to be prayerful and reflective asking ourselves each day, “Have I succeeded in being good today with all I said and did?” That is the necessary starting place. Then we can be honest with ourselves and be humble enough to recognize that we have done well and sometimes done not so well in places. But then we might ask how can I improve if I have both good and bad inside of me.
Here is a way to help us get better. If we have the potential for good and bad in all of us, consider these potentials like two plants in our hearts: plant of goodness and the plant of evil. The plant you water will grow the most. When we water our gentleness, our kindness, our forgiveness, our patience, our understanding of others; then they will grow. That is the best way I know how. Can we be gentle, kind, forgiving, understanding and patient with each other, especially those we consider our enemies; those who we perceive who are not for us.
I remind myself often to model this and I ask you to consider doing the same with those you interact with; in your family, work, school, government and church communities. Forgive leaders if their errors have affected you personally and help leaders by being gentle in your correction so that the leaders can really hear your perspective. Together, we can water the right plants in our hearts and we will be a united community of faith in Christ.
Finally, a reminder this Sunday morning Donut Sunday is back! Please come to any of the Sunday morning Masses and stay a little and visit with other families. Enjoy a donut, coffee and a chat. Welcome back to all the young people as all classes and youth ministry starts this weekend.