This is for this past Sunday’s reading (02-19-17)…
Want to get things done? Make a list. Want to track your progress? Make a list. What to be Santa Claus? Make a list, then check it twice. Want to build the Kingdom of God? Make a list.
Morning Prayer? Check
Daily Devotional? Check
Daily / weekly Mass? Check
Good deed? Check
Get into heated social media debate? Check Check Check Right?
I don’t know about you, but for much of my life I have used checklist Christianity as the measuring stick for discipleship. There are many activities on this list, and if I check off more boxes than I leave blank, I’m growing in my faith. If I don’t, I’m falling deep into the recesses of sin and death. No in between, no middle ground. No excuses. Outside of tracking my own path to the halo store, the best thing about this measuring stick is I get to use it to judge the spiritual lives of all my family, my friends, and (most satisfyingly) my enemies.
Enter Jesus, who in this week’s Gospel, promptly takes that stick and smashes it to pieces.
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well….. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
At the very foundations of our faith, as we hear in the first reading, there has been a call for us to be Holy and to be Perfect. We have taken that call and applied our own terms to answering it. Follow the commandments, go to Church, pray every day, don’t curse, don’t smoke, and make sure to “like” that Facebook picture of Caucasian Jesus so the groundhog won’t see his shadow (we missed the quota this year, get it together Church!). This list goes on and on. This pursuit of “Checklist Christianity” may make us feel better about ourselves, but it will not help us be Holy, or Perfect.
I am not saying that disciplines, devotions, and regular Mass attendance should be disregarded. In fact, practicing the classic (and contemporary) spiritual disciplines has served the very heros of our faith, including Jesus himself, quite well. What I am saying, and what the Gospel is calling us to, is to see these practices as a means to an end. And what’s the end? The love that appears in our lives and in our world. Jesus raises the stakes on our preconceived notions of holiness. Not to rub our noses in our inadequacy, but so that we come to see that we are called to more than a “faith life” where we reach a place of self satisfaction. We are meant to live rather, a life of faith where the giving and receiving of grace is recognized in every moment of every day. To be a Christian is to be like Jesus. It is not just something that we do…it is the very someone we become.