Friends, have you noticed how easy it is to contradict things and make fools of ourselves sometimes? Sometimes things may be funny and sometimes the same things can get us in trouble. You know things were not much different in Jesus day with the Scribes and Pharisees, they were full of contradictions and self-deceit, convinced that they were the truly holy ones and everyone else were great sinners. Jesus tells us that if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven, we have to be better than they were. This week and next as Jesus continues his sermon on the mount he gives us various illustrations of what he means by being better. Basically, Jesus is trying to show us that holiness goes beyond external behavior. Holiness must be deep inside of us. And that which must be deep inside of us, that which makes us truly holy is love: love of God and love of each other. Certainly the way we behave is important. God’s commandments tell us that; Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not bear false witness, honor thy father and mother, keep holy the Lord’s day and so on. Keeping God’s instructions about what we must do or not do will guide us to a better life. Jesus also wants us to have such love in our hearts that we wouldn’t even want disobey his commandments. We might be thinking that this is a big order that Jesus gives us and you know it is. Jesus asks a lot from his followers. Sirach tells us in today’s first reading that if you choose, you can keep the commandments. I think we need to add, only with God’s help. For Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing.”
Friends, God’s help is available to us through prayer and the sacraments. But we must be careful not to condemn ourselves when feelings come to us, feelings of anger, laziness, envy, lust, greed, pride or whatever. We are all human and we all experience those feelings. The important thing is what we do with these feelings. Do we dwell on them, hold on to them and allow them to take over our thinking, or do we consider whether they fit with what Jesus would want of us and choose to go in the direction of what we know Jesus would want? I know we all know what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t be doing. I know we all make mistakes we all make wrong choices sometimes and that is because we are human.
However if we choose to really allow our hearts to be filled with God’s love we will have absolutely no problem sharing that love with God and our neighbor.
And we always have the wonderful sacraments to help us, especially Reconciliation and the very Body and Blood of Jesus himself.
Our bishop elect Edward Scharfenberger said in his first statement to us, his sheep in the Diocese of Albany “help me to be the best self that I can be.” What a wonderful statement, “help me to be the best self that I can be.” Just imagine how much greater our parish would be if we all helped each other to be the best self that we can be. Imagine how much better each of us would be if we helped each other to be the best self we could be.