22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time - Sunday, September 2, 2018

Father Jim Valk's picture

Father Jim Valk

August 28, 2018

It was a Sunday afternoon! Only one parking spot was available on a one way street. My friend Fr. Nino was driving (Mario Andretti style) and he was confident he could get into the spot. So, he backed up perfectly, got into the space - and a whistle blew. A cop (in Bolivia) cited Fr. Nino for going in the wrong direction. Fr. Nino explained that the only way to park was to first back up (remembering it was a one way street) and then pull ahead. Right? “Wrong,” said the man, “You are going in the wrong direction, even though that was the only way to do it”. That was the law, no matter how ‘impractical’ it was. We always do it that way and that is the law. We paid the fine!

What traditions, rituals do we have? That’s the way it has been and will be! Human laws are necessary so we don’t get into trouble. Religious laws point out a way of living. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time multiplied laws upon laws - from 10 to 613 laws that one must obey. A person was holy on just how one kept these laws. Be mean to your neighbor, but keep the law. There was no love involved, no compassion. The externals were all that were seen; lip service without meaning. Or we emphasize by looks, by what we say, or by our possessions!

In the comic section of the newspaper, Lucy and Linus argue over laws - Linus says some people have a knack in seeing other people’s faults; Lucy says she has a knack of overlooking her own faults - no problem, no change! Such was the attitude of the Pharisees - they couldn’t see that the poor, the fishermen, the wives could not follow “the traditions of the elders”. How well do we embody God’s love in our own religious practices? Are they motivated by the love of God and neighbor? What are the inner motives that spur us on? Where does our heart stray?

Do you remember the movie FIDDLER ON THE ROOF? All was done according to TRADITION. Do we do things according to what was?  Are the externals more important than what we do? The kingdom of God is within us - God loves us as we are. God is impressed by our loving hearts. Lucy complains about the awful condition of the human race. What to do? Linus responds with the gospel message - love, forgive, be compassionate. With that Lucy clobbers him. “Why?” says Charlie Brown, “Did you do that?” “He was beginning to make sense”, says Lucy. Do we make sense? Are we a lip service community or does “love one another as I love” make a difference? I read - I can’t hear what you are saying for what you do thunders too loudly. Jesus calls us to make love REAL in what we say and do for others. St. James says, “Be doers of the word!” How many words said or read each day make a positive difference in what we do? What words make a difference in what we do or will do today?  Will our world be a better place to be because we are here? What more can I do, be?

I read this little phrase: Lord, help me to be what you want me to be. A little boy and his Dad were on their knees before bedtime. The little guy prayed for his Dad - warm, loving, caring and so on. He went to sleep. Dad prayed - Lord, help me to be what my son thinks I am. God is impressed with a loving heart. Praise of God is to love from the heart. Have I done it that way before? What changes do I need to make, to live well? Love must find its expression in outward deeds, witness to be the “face of God” to others. Jesus emphasizes the need to be more than lip service, to let the motivations of the heart shine through in what we say and do.

A lady asked her neighbor how she could deal with the 8 children she had. “How can you divide all that love amongst all those kids?” Her answer was, “I don’t divide it, it multiplies it”. Have we done that before? Jesus is here and calls us to love one another from the heart. What better motivation can there be than to see the measure of our love is to love without measure.  We GET to love not GOT to love. What a labour of love that gives life!