It's not good enough to be good...

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Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings for today's liturgy

Audio for homily

I believe that in our heart of hearts,
each of us has a desire to be good:
to be a good person and to do good things.

And, of course  --  that's good!

But in the scriptures here,
the Lord calls us to something greater than goodness,
he calls us to be holy:
“Be holy, as I the Lord, your God, am holy.”

I’m not sure that even those among us who most want to be good
have also a desire to be holy.

Often, holiness is something we admire in other people
(Jesus, Mother Teresa, or our grandmother
who goes to Mass and prays the Rosary every day)
but holiness isn’t something we feature or strive for ourselves.

And insofar as we think of it as something too pious,
spiritually over the top, even odd or quirky,
holiness might even be something we don’t want.

What might help us here is to understand what’s meant by holiness.
In these readings, holiness is not something quaint
and certainly it's not something weak or submissive.
The holiness in these texts is challenging, demanding and strong.

Holiness here calls us to provide no room in our hearts for hatred.
Most of us don’t have hate-filled hearts
but many of us keep in our otherwise “good” hearts a little corner 
reserved for our less-than-loving thoughts and feelings:
for this one or that one; for that group or this;
for that political party or that church authority;
for that person in my past; for my ex-; 
for my co-worker; for my neighbor...

Even a good heart should make no room for such feelings -
no more than a farmer would keep a corner of his field
for growing weeds:
the weeds drain the goodness from the soil and eventually spread,
laying waste to the field and its crop.

A holy heart makes no room for weeds but rather keeps vigil
lest ill-will, grudges, resentments and revenge take root there
and yield a harvest of hate.

A holy heart seeks, always, what is good
and wastes no time planning for retaliation
(an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth).

A holy heart does not oppose evil with evil
- no matter how satisfying that may be -
but rather stands tall in the face of evil,
willing to bear and suffer the consequences of fidelity
even when they take their toll on ease and comfort.

While a good heart gives to someone in need,
a holy heart gives until the giver has a share in the want
of the one whose needs are being served.

A holy heart gives until it makes a difference for the giver
as well as for the one who receives.

In other words: being good isn’t good enough for Christians -
we are called to something more.

People of good heart love those who love them.
People of holiness have a greater, deeper, stronger love to offer:
they love those who do not love in return;
they love even their enemies;
and they pray for those who make their daily lives unhappy.

In the gospel here
Jesus acknowledges that even pagans have good hearts
but he calls us to something greater.

He calls us to love as God loves:
not sparingly, not grudgingly
but fully, deeply, robustly;
not with strings attached and hope for something in return,
but freely, selflessly and generously;
not with hidden pockets of resentment
but with peace and forgiveness.

It’s interesting to note that in the Lord’s call to us
to be holy as he is holy, to be perfect as the Father is perfect,
there’s not even a mention of kneeling in prayer in a church -
as important as that is.

In fact, St. Paul reminded us that the temple where God dwells
is in the community of our neighbors.

As important as the temple of prayer is in our lives,
holiness is nurtured, lived and shared outside the temple as well,
in all the ways, and every time,
we cross paths with one another
on the streets where we live and work
and on roads that stretch around the globe.

Shall we then be satisfied with good hearts
or shall we hope to have holy hearts.
Would we rather be loved by a good heart or a holy heart?

God loves each of us with a heart of holiness
and calls us to love one another, even our enemies,
with the same heart.

More than a good heart gave itself for us in the sacrifice of the Cross
and it is, indeed, the holiest of all hearts
whose life, whose body and blood, we share at this altar.

May the sacrament we share at this table
nourish in each of us a desire to be holy,
to be faithful members of God’s holy people,
to be perfect as God is perfect,
to be holy even as the Lord is holy.

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  1. Another blinder of a homily. (and I know you now know what that means!)
    One of the most awesome things about your homilies is how much you pack into a small space.
    Yes, quirky, quaint and pious is often associated with holiness and how you draw out the meaning of what we need to be is dissected with the sensitive and searching scalpel of a master surgeon of the sick souls that we are. Brilliant and full of riches to visit again and again. If I could put even one part of this into practice it would be a miracle.


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