6th Sunday Year A - Homily 3

 Homily 3 - 2017

Jesus’ basic claim, his message when he began his public ministry, was, “The kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Repent and believe the good news”. 1. The kingdom of heaven is close at hand, 2. Repent, and 3. Believe the good news. In Mt’s Gospel, ‘repent’ is essentially, change how you think; believe means trust, take the punt. The kingdom of heaven is the way society is, the way people experience life, once they have begun to see God differently, have seen the difference really as good news, and are doing their best to relate to God, themselves and to each other according to their new insight into and surrender to the mystery of God.

The crucial thing is to be open to see God differently, and that is not a once-and-for -all achievement but a continuing adventure. Elsewhere Jesus makes it clear that God is love, not just loves sometimes or some people, but simply is love, and cannot not be love. Jesus also makes clear that love in its essential self is unconditional. We basically cannot fully understand that. We probably think we do. My experience, my conviction, is that we don’t. We can keep on being surprised, pleasantly surprised. I am even inclined to think that we feel uneasy with unconditional love. We like to think that, to some extent at least, when we are on the receiving end, that we have somehow deserved it, and have some say in it, have some sort of control over it; and that when we are giving it, we can sometimes have some expectations sometimes. Knowing that God’s love is unconditionally unconditional makes an unsettling difference. All God’s interactions with us flow from God’s sheer love. With God, everything is gift. Unconditional love makes all the difference. Embarking on the journey, saying yes to it, trusting it, is what is essentially involved in the invitation to ‘Repent’.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven”, that is, you will not experience what it is like to live in relationship with a God whom you know loves you, unconditionally. Where did they fall short? They were good Jews. They were obedient to God and God’s laws. They saw themselves so lucky to have such clear laws, such good laws. It was just that they had still to grow up. When you were children, you needed clear directives from your parents. You needed realistic and adequate rewards and punishments. It was the necessary way to socialize you – and our society is the worse off today because a lot of children lack that basic socialization. But, please God, you do not treat your spouse in the same way good parents treat their children. You do not lay down laws and demand obedience under threat of punishment. When two mature people deeply love each other, everything is different.

When you relate to God, do you see yourself, feel yourself, as child or adult?

As you read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, do you hear Jesus giving a whole lot more commandments in addition to the traditional ones? As I see it, Jesus was encouraging us to think outside the square, to recognize what makes sense when people appreciate their own and each other’s dignity as sharing the same life of God – adult brothers and sisters of Christ. He wanted to help us get a feel for what it means to relate to others from genuine, felt respect, wanting to love each other. St Augustine once wrote, “Love - and do what you want!” The urgency flows from your mature responsibility, the deeper virtue Jesus mentioned today, not from childlike obedience. Surely, that is how you see your relationship to your spouse, what guides your interactions?

As it really comes home to us that God unconditionally loves us, everything, including ourselves, becomes different.