In last Sunday’s Gospel, we heard of the rich man whom Jesus asked to give up his possessions to follow him. The nuance that I reflected on this time around was what led to that seemingly severe demand. In the Collect for that Mass, we pray that His grace “make[s] us always determined to carry out good works”. That we need determination to carry out good implies a constant stretching of ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
In the sacraments we acknowledge where we are in our state of sin vs virtue both in the Sacrament of Reconciliation but also at the beginning of mass. After having done so we turn our eyes upward toward better things and allow grace to lift us out of where we are. You’d say the Church has met us where we are, giving us a forum to declare our acknowledgment of sin and willingness to be filled with Grace. Thus Pope Francis’ wish that we minister at the margins of society are to collectively stretch the Church’s arms beyond our own comfort zone.
The rich man was already doing okay in life. He told Jesus that he was already on the right path of a virtuous life. Jesus “loved him” and gave him a formula to stretch himself – to give up his possessions. No one is safely “okay” that they can’t be stretched. This is why I cringe and get suspicious when I hear politicians declare themselves to be “good practicing Christians”. “No one is good but God alone”, the Lord reminds us. Such politicians tend to have already figured out a suspect détante between the ways of the world and the ways of God.
In the back and forth during the Synod deliberations over how merciful the Church should be with those living in irregular situations, meeting people where they are does not excuse them from the demand of the Lord to stretch toward virtue so as to allow Grace to pour in. Mercy is never giving up on inviting anyone to participate in that Grace.
Sure, God loves us where we are, but He loves us to much to let us stay the way we are.
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