The Scripture readings for the sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time are not for the faint-hearted. The Scriptures strip away all our excuses and lay before us the challenge of living our discipleship to the deepest possibility.
We should remember some difficult truths that we must live with. First, we have no control over anyone’s life but our own. If we spend any time trying to control others, we are living in a fantasy world and wasting our energy. Jesus tells us as much when He encourages us to be a good example for others to follow instead of trying to exert power over other people. Just take a moment to think of all the energy we’ve wasted trying to make somebody act or think the way we want. We can stop that by bringing the focus back to our lives, which need transformation and conversion.
That illuminates our ability to act as if we are victims, to blame our behavior — or lack of it — on society or other people. A deeper walk with Jesus begins by listening to the Gospel this weekend and trying to live it out. The invitation from the Gospel is to quit living at a minimal level of faith. We should not be satisfied simply because we are not killing, lying or stealing. We are called to reconcile with one another before we approach the altar. How many of us would have to leave in the middle of Mass if we took that literally? We can reconcile by being the first to apologize or to mend the distance that has grown between us and others. We can begin to spend time with people who are different from us to create some sense of hospitality and charity toward those who might be different.
The Book of Sirach says that before us are life and death, good and evil. Whatever we choose will be given to us. We are encouraged to immerse ourselves in the wisdom of God, who is powerful and all-seeing. That statement’s practical implications should be able to change our lives. To believe that there is a power greater than ourselves, who is willing to lead us through life with love, is an incredible gift of love to us from God.
“Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord.” In that solemn response, we acknowledge that our life flows from God and should flow back to God in gratitude. We are reminded that this takes a certain fear of the Lord or awe of our God, who loves us so deeply. That awe of God will remind us that we are in His powerful presence when we are in relationship with Him. It should take our breath away and allow us to be humble enough to listen, follow and act.
Can we allow the Word of God to become flesh in the world through us? We just celebrated the Word becoming flesh during our Christmas season. We shouldn’t pack that faith away with the rest of the Christmas decorations, but it should be something that we realize is within our power to do every day. May the Word become flesh through our good example for others.
Father Donald Wester is the pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.