The other day I was talking with our first communion students, (They are receiving the sacrament this coming Sunday) and we were discussing the concept of a good act of contrition verses bad act of contrition. When you are 10 years old the concept is actually pretty easy to convey; are you sorry because you are afraid of getting punished or are you sorry because you made someone else sad? Granted, it is a bit more complicated than that, but the basics are there. The question comes down to whether it is about you or is it about them. It comes down to whether you are more worried about you being personally inconvenienced or punished in which case you are probably on your way to a bad act of contrition.
And the funny thing is that if you listen to the beginning of the prayer the Act of the Contrition you would almost think that it was sort of headed that way:
“Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you because of your just punishment.” Sort of sounds like I am really sorry because I’m about to get a whooping!”
Today’s first reading sort of sounds like this. From that reading it doesn’t sound like Ahab, King of Israel was a good person. And whether that was true or not, it was clear that he was in some serious trouble. “Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the LORD’s sight, I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you and will cut off every male in Ahab’s line, whether slave or freeman, in Israel.” It goes on to say that if one of his son dies in the city a dog will eat his remains and if one dies in the field a bird will swoop down and eat his remains.
It is no wonder that Ahab wanted to make amends. Wouldn’t you? And not just the sackcloth thing, I mean some serious amends would have been in order. Which brings me to today’s gospel. It is all about love. In John 13:34 Jesus tells us that He has come to bring us a new commandment, to; “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.
As He has loved us? That is some serious Love. And in today’s gospel He takes it a step further to say that we should not only love one another but we should also love our enemies! OUR Enemies! Those people that are mean to us, hurt us, persecute us and speak every evil thing against us. We are to love them? And not only because we know that if we don’t, we will get into trouble but because we know that if we do it brings Him joy.
Which brings us to the next ling in the Act of Contrition, “But mainly because you are all good and deserving of all of my love.” Remember that in first John 4:20 we are reminded, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
The conversation with the students ended with an explanation of the term “Act of Contrition”. It just means saying that you are sorry… and meaning it, because when you do that it means that you love that person. Not because that person is your friend but because God our Father loves that person and who are we to claim to be smarter than God.
The hardest part of today’s readings isn’t all of this contrition stuff, it is the very last line. After all of this love one another, and loving you enemies, and the rain falling on the just and unjust it ends with, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
WHAT? So be perfect …. ? and not just be our version of perfect, but be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Is that even possible? Our Lord thinks that it is. Remember first Corinthians 13:13, “But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The greatest of these …. So, it is possible, all that we have to do is to love as God does. To be absolutely perfect all that we have to do is to love our neighbors as God does. All that we have to do is to love strangers as God does. All that we have to do is to love our enemies as God does. Simple …?
It feels as though I have traded places with my 10-year-old students. The concept is actually pretty easy to convey, there is just more to it.
Alleluia, alleluia. I give you a new commandment; love one another as I have loved you.
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”
Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
June 14, 2022
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