Friday, March 18, 2011

Daily Lenten inspiration, March 18, 2011 (Friday of the First Week of Lent)

Transcript of homily recorded on Friday, March 18, 2011

By Father Tim McGowan

Mark Twain once said of an acquaintance: "He's a good man, in the worst sense of the word."

"He's a good man, in the worst sense of the word."

Have we known people like that? I think I have. I think I've been that kind of person once in a while. Jesus obviously knew people that. The scribes and the Pharisees were good people. They were strict adherence of the law of Moses. They practiced their faith with --- they tried to, anyway --- perfection. They were serious about it. But they were good people in the worst sense of the word because they had become unhuman. They were very difficult to be with and they looked with pride down on the lives of other people; they separated  themselves.

Now, in order to illustrate this, Jesus says, if you bring your gift to the altar and then recall you have something against your brother or sister, go first be reconciled with your brother and sister, then come and offer your gift. In other words, the kind of goodness that Jesus calls us to, that the kingdom of God is about, is the kind of goodness that can't be right with God and wrong with each other. In order to be right with God, I have to be right in my human relationships. And this is where the rubber meets the road because the human relationships are the difficult ones. I mean, sometimes God and I don't always agree on how things oughta work And sometimes I stubbornly stop talking to him, but he is always faithful and he will always be there. It's in my human relationships that the difficulties arise, and Jesus is saying, unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you're not going to experience the kingdom. It's here in our relationships with one another that we are challenged.

And so we are here in Lent, not only to work on our relationship with God --- and that always can be improved upon --- but also in our relationships with one another, to be reconciled with one another.

And we have a great a saint --- St. Cyril of Jerusalem --- today we're remembering his life was not easy. I think people have the impression that the saints had these serene, wonderful, easy lives, always in ecstasy in the presence of God. That's not the case. If you look at the life of St. Cyril, you'll discover that he, as bishop of Jerusalem, spent half of his bishop's experience in exile. He had to work out relationships with, not just the mystical body of Christ, but the body of Christ --- the church.

So if we're experiencing difficulties in our relationships with someone in our family or friends or at work, know that the saints had the same struggles. But we're not a people who give up on those struggles. We're here to be nourished in word and in sacrament so that our holiness can surpass that of scribes and Pharisees, that our holiness will enable us to experience God's kingdom.

And of course, the supreme example is Jesus himself.  His relationships with people were often times difficult and full of tension. His relationship with God was sometimes one that made him ask, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Let this cup pass, but if it be your will ... And so Jesus himself knew the challenges that come with relationships, and he sets the example for us. And the responsorial psalm is one that beautifully typifies for us what is in store. I cannot mark your inequities, because if God marked my inequities, how could I stand?

So let us endeavor this day, and this Lent, to recognize that our relationship with God is worked out in the everyday with our relationships with one another. I can't be right with God and wrong with you. This is the challenge that Lent and the Gospel today present before us.

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