Our Gospel this weekend is an important one for those of us who “practice” our religion, that is, those of us who go to Mass on Sundays and holydays, who don’t eat meat on Fridays in Lent, who say our morning and evening prayers, etc. Observing the “rules” is important, because all these things strengthen us to do what is really important: love others and show that love by being generous,
compassionate, and forgiving.
The danger is that we can be like the first son in our Gospel parable, who says he will do what his father asks, but then doesn’t do it. That happens if we substitute our religious practice for what God REALLY wants. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus answers love of God and love of neighbor, and immediately adds the Good
Samaritan parable to tell us that all are our neighbors. In the Last Judgment, it is how we treated others that is important, not religious practice: when I was hungry, you gave me to eat… THAT is what we have said “yes” to, as followers of Christ. If we are performing our religious duties but not growing in our ability to be generous, loving, and forgiving to others, including those we might deem “not worthy,” we are like the first son who agrees to do what his father asks but then reneges.
Let me be clear: religious practice is essential for our Christian life. We need the graces and help that come from a strong relationship with the Lord to be able to go out of ourselves to others. We just need to make sure we are USING our religious practice to help us grow in our ability to relate to others as did Jesus, not SUBSTITUTING it for the challenge of making the needs of others a part of our life.
I invite us this week to reflect on how well we are doing at using our religious observance as a help to grow in love of God shown through love of neighbor.
Church sign of the week: You worship a homeless man on Sunday. Don’t ignore one on Monday.