26th Sunday (Note & Bulletin)

I remember as a kid, our priest would often joke that we were all Christians while at Mass but when we tried to exit the crowded parking lot, things were different. Soon after praying together, exchanging the Sign of Peace and receiving the Eucharist we became like little monsters – car horns beeped, cars were cut-off, looks were exchanged, and sometimes, hand gestures were shared. Not that we had a bad parish, but this little memory (with some exaggeration) gets to the core of the Lord’s teaching in this week’s Gospel. Christ strongly teaches that we are to “walk the talk.” As a Catholic Christian, as a follower of the Lord, our words mean much less than the actions we do.

In the Gospel, Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and the elders, and he is admonishing them. Essentially, the Lord says that though they say the right words, their actions do not follow. And, at the same time, while some others may not respond in the right way, their actions later follow what God has taught. In other words, the latter group seek to “walk the talk.” It is important that those who respond by following God in their actions are people we would not generally expect to be chosen to “enter the kingdom of God.” Christ is not criticizing the priests and elders because of the positions they hold, but is rather desperately trying to highlight the central importance of mercy within the workings of our hearts.

The chief priests and elders do not turn away from their sinfulness because they do not think there is anything to turn from in their lives. They say all the right things; they pray all the right prayers; and, strictly follow all the religious laws. In a sense, they have everything together themselves, and therefore, do not feel a great need for God. On the other hand, the sinners know this need. They know that they have not done the right things and that they need God’s strength and grace. They, unlike the priests and elders, know that they are not justified by their own power. They seek forgiveness and the merciful love of the Father, and they receive it! And in receiving it, they come to know it because God’s merciful love takes root and grows within their hearts. His love becomes part of them. The following of the Lord is not identified by a bunch of proscribed words and actions. Rather, the Christian life emerges from a heart that is coming to the Father’s love. In this way, we can understand the words of St Paul: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Love is much less about doing certain and specific things, and much more about whom each of us is. Love transforms and leads to greater life.

As followers of the Lord, we do not want our words and actions to be different. We want to “walk the talk.” We don’t want to people who may hurt others with the words we speak or the actions we do. We want to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” We want to be kind, gentle, patient and understanding. We want to be love. And we want to be love because deep within our hearts we are coming to hear and know more and more clearly God’s very self and truth – “I have loved you with and everlasting love.” Church this true and so let us rejoice!

God bless and take care!
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