Many today, even in the Church think that the Church needs to be nice, to accept everyone and be silent with regards to serious sin. But today’s Readings show us this is not so. In the First Reading, Isaiah tells his people to: Listen to the teaching of our God. He then continues to talk of their burnt offerings, and how these do not delight God any more. He says bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. God then says When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you: even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. The reading ends with a call: Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
This passage shows good works mean nothing if we continue to do evil in the sight of God. Our prayers, our masses, our rosaries will please God only when we stop doing evil in his sight. Good works, like giving to the poor, helping the orphans, offering masses or praying the rosaries, our social justice activities mean nothing, in fact, wearies God when we continue to live in sin. The Psalm in fact asks: What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you have discipline, and you cast my words behind you. When I live in sin, I have no right to even recite the words of God, and I cannot expect God to hear my prayers.
What is needed is an encounter with Jesus that will change our hearts to do what God wants. The first thing God tells us to do is seek justice. We have to do justice, first to God himself by giving him praise, thanksgiving, honor, worship, service above any one else.
This is why Jesus said in today’s Gospel: do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
A Christian life is not easy. Following Christ is not easy. And Jesus says this in the Gospel: whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. A Christian’s life revolves around Jesus Christ. I cannot follow Christ if I am not willing to let go of what is comfortable because Christ always calls me to rise above what I am to become who he wants me to be. So if I think I will go to heaven, just because God loves me, without me denying myself and following Jesus, I am deceiving myself. Jesus does not bring peace to this world. He brings a sword. He calls us to battle against ourselves and sin. I need to fight against my desire to do my will and instead, desire to do God’s will. I need to fight against my own ideas of how things should be and instead, accept God’s Truth. I need to stop being afraid or content in what I have and instead, walk out in faith, trusting in the goodness of God. I can only do this if I commit my life to Jesus.
And yes, Christian life is a struggle. But Jesus promised: Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. When we struggle and battle against our will so so as to do justice to God, meaning, to praise him, thank him, worship him, honor him and serve him, then we will find life. God will not abandon us when we seek him. Christian life is difficult, but when God is for us, no one can stand against us. We march on to face our sinfulness, we march on to confront our wrong ideas of God, we march on to fight the desire to sin that is within us, so we can cease to do evil and give glory to God. The only way to find life is to give it up for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord, I come to you, because I know the evil things I have done. I come to you, because I want to be the person you created me to be. I reject my own ideas of you and I ask you to reveal yourself to me, so I may give up my life and do justice to you: to praise you, thank you, honor you, to worship you and to serve you. Let me do all these in love and not in fear.