Often in Scripture we hear the disciples say, "this is a hard saying." That was the first thing I thought while reading today's Gospel. Do good to those who hate you? Really? Give to those who steal from you? Seriously? Bless those who curse you? Come on! Lend money and don't expect repayment? This is out of hand!!?
I guess I didn't listen to my own message yesterday... Yesterday I was excited and felt free knowing that the things of this world aren't that important. After all, you can't take it with you. The attachment to things, the attachment to self is a constant struggle for me. I also have a serious spiritual attention deficit disorder.
Have you ever met someone who actually lives this way? Have you ever met someone who lives Gospel poverty? We tend to think of them as crazy, a bit off. It's the lady who sits two pews in front of you at church. You know the one. In conversation she mentions that a friend's cousin's boyfriend's brother just got out of prison and is trying to get back on his feet so she gave him her car. "I'll just take the bus until God decides to give me another car", she says.
These people exist and they fill me with jealousy, a holy jealousy. Lord help me to live that detached, that free!
A few years ago our parish hosted a retreat with a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate. I picked him up at the airport. He was wearing his full blue-gray habit, sandals, and a watch. He explained that the vow of poverty meant he owned nothing. The only thing he possessed that didn't once belong to another friar and wouldn't be passed on to someone after him was his underwear. Then too I was filled with a holy jealousy. I too wanted to be that free, that unencumbered. I too wanted to live as though I was already in Heaven where the things of this world are simply gifts and means to an end, Heaven.
If we are to call ourselves "children of God" for that is what we are, we must imitate the Father, "for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful."
This truly is a hard saying. It is a challenge to live a life detached from the cares of this world and learning to live that way is a life-long process. It is a challenge to love and be generous with those who are selfish, mean, ungrateful, and violent but it is the first step toward Heaven.
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