Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel, Jesus shares an important message with his apostles after spending days on a mountaintop in prayer. He commands them to love their enemies, turn the other cheek, love sinners, lend money, be merciful, stop judging, stop condemning, forgive, and give abundantly. Whew. It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed with what seems likes a long to-do list that Jesus offers. I personally love the satisfaction that comes from crossing things off my to-do list. Accomplishing tasks and completing goals makes me feel successful and motivated. After reading this passage, we may be tempted to add more to our already endless to-do lists. But perhaps Jesus is challenging us to move beyond merely checking off boxes. In what ways can we reorient ourselves from extrinsic rewards and shift our lives toward a heavenly reward? If what Jesus asks seems too much for us, we are beginning to understand that it is through our response to His abundant love and grace that we can better serve him. Like the innkeeper who, earlier in Luke’s gospel, provided a humble space for the Word to enter the world, we too are called create room for the Spirit that Jesus promised so that we can bear witness to his love, mercy and peace.
I am reminded of a beautiful image from Caryll Houselander’s book The Reed of God. She offers the Blessed Mother as an example for us. It was she who understood perfectly what it meant to be a reed in the hand of God, to maintain a purposeful emptiness that “receives the piper’s breath and utters the song that is in his heart” (Houselander 23). In this way, we are created with a purposeful emptiness so that God may breathe life into our hearts and souls and we may go forth sharing his divine melodies.
It is not so much that we are asked to imitate God’s love and mercy as to be a channel for it. Let us strive to create space for God so that we can live out the words of St. Francis: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Amen.