During Lent, we always talk about giving something up. My question today is why do we just need to wait until Lent. Many people are already doing it. Giving up foods with a lot of salt or cholesterol, stopping smoking, giving up watching too much TV and exercising, and the list continues. One way to interpret today’s gospel is to ask what must I do away with, cut away, so that I could be a better follower of Jesus. One place to start is to take an inventory of our day; perhaps, meditate on your calendar. Is there time for prayer? How time is spent as a family? How much time am I not using my cellphone, iPad, etc and having a conversation with someone? If there is a spot for exercise, is there also a spot to read the Scriptures? Another place to look is in our hearts. This maybe the harder to place because it means we have to confront parts of our selves that we would rather not look at. Looking into our hearts means we confront our sins and all those parts of ourselves that are still in need of redemption and change. In reality,it is here where we “cut” out parts of ourselves….angers we have never dealt with, our envy, our selfishness, the me first attitude, our laziness, our apathy, and whatever else we meet Finally, St James offers us another to examine. Our concern, solidarity with the poor and our acts of charity. Again, look back to Lent. We put money aside for the poor….what about September? Where is our charity today? This past week we celebrated the feast of St Vincent de Paul. He wrote the following:
Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor. It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars.
St Vincent challenges to root out of live the judgmentalism that can creep into our hears. He reminds that charity is the most important virtue…charity not limited to those we like and love, but charity to all we meet.
So, today’s Gospel calls us to cut out all the parts that keep us from following Christ with our whole hearts. May we look honestly at ourselves and give up that which is in the way. Why do we have to wait until Lent when we can do it now? We will all have things to change in Lent anyway.