Acting out of the Goodness of God
Feb 21, 2017
While I was growing up, my family lived four blocks away from our parish church. We often would walk to church since it seemed more convenient than getting into the car and driving over to the full parking lot and struggling to find a place to put the car. As I got older my mother would let me walk to church by myself or go with my friends instead of the family. I liked going to the Saturday evening Mass (at that point it was just being allowed as an anticipatory Mass for Sunday and it was considered the youth Mass). I went to Mass regularly and enjoyed being there for the most part.
On one given Saturday evening, and I do not remember precisely how old I was at the time, I decided to skip Mass. I walked over to the church, got a bulletin so I could prove to my mother that I had been there and then I just hung around that part of the neighborhood until I figured Mass was ended. I had a very different opinion of God at the time. I knew He was all knowing, all seeing and His justice would be swift. As I spent this time waiting to go back home it began to occur to me that I was doing a very bad thing. I was breaking the commandment of keeping holy the Sabbath. Knowing that God was a harsh taskmaster I began to get very worried. By the time I began my journey back home I was sure that I was going to be hit by a car in punishment for this most grievous sin. I walked very cautiously with the other lie in my hand (the church bulletin) and took special care at every corner I had to cross. Remarkably for me on that day NOTHING HAPPENED!!
As days passed after this incident I kept waiting; knowing that God was not going to let me get away with this breach against His commandments. Yet, day after day, nothing happened. This began puzzling me and caused me to begin thinking that maybe I just wasn’t that important to God. There were bigger fish in that sea of sin and I was just a one-time Mass skipper. It did not occur to me then and it would take years for me to mature enough to understand that “God is perfect; he makes his sun rise on the bad and good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.” (Matt 5:45-46) We hear Jesus teach His disciples this insight in today’s Gospel and he commands us to be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.
This perfection is to remain unmoved by the brokenness of our companions, families, friends, workmates, our faith community. Jesus will encourage us to watch ourselves closely (take the plank from your eye before you attempt to take the sliver out of your brother’s eye (Matt7 3-5)). God remains God in spite of our different attempts to either please Him or defy Him. He remains Himself constantly giving Himself over to us no matter how we receive Him. To figure this out is to open yourself to receive His gifts as He gives them instead of trying to earn them. To imitate God in this manner (at least as I have experienced it) brings about a peaceful encounter with others, no matter who they may be. As we become more imitators of this Godly perfection we too are brought to share in the Father’s outpouring of goodness to our brothers and sisters wherever they may be. We act out of the goodness of God instead of the smallness of ourselves.