Graciousness in division rooted in gratitude to God

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | July 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

Editor’s note: The following is adapted from a Mass homily Father Charles Lachowitzer preached in Rochester June 18 at the presbyteral assembly, a biennial gathering of the priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for reflection, prayer and fellowship. Although originally presented to priests, the counsel offered is applicable to all Christian faithful.

In our first reading from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor 8:1-9), Paul extolled the quality of being gracious. For him, being gracious is not just being kind, generous and community minded. It is the gratitude of the heart in response to the abundant grace of God in Jesus Christ. It is giving our entire lives to God. It is imitating Christ, who emptied himself that we may be filled with the treasures of heaven.

However, sometimes the simple truth that we are to be gracious to one another gets complicated when we try to live it out.

Father Charles Lachowitzer

Father Charles Lachowitzer

In our Gospel from Matthew (Mt 5:43-48), Jesus calls upon his followers to offer the gift of love even when we do not feel the virtue of charity as our first reaction to those who do not love us. Jesus calls us to “be perfect” — and he knows all too well that we are not.

Of all the sins that sabotage love, wrath and envy fuel war, violence, hatred and division. Wrath blinds us to the will of God, and envy blinds us to our own giftedness. In these pews and in the pews of our parishes, there are those ideological battlegrounds of “friendly fire” that aren’t so friendly when they are mean spirited. We see that, for instance, in the debates over life and over love, where it often seems forgotten that a true defense of the faith and noble advocacy for social change are never without the virtue of charity.

Metaphorically speaking, in our priestly service, it is not enough to hang around with birds of the same feather or preach only to the choir. We know that our ministry is not simply to wash those feet that are already clean. Our own feet would stand in too stark a contrast, and Jesus showed love to the unloved and the unlovable.

No adjective in front of the words “human being” excuse us from the obligation to love one another. Wrath and envy may be the ways of the world, but they cannot be our way. We are called to make saints, not demons, and friends, not enemies.

So how then do we love those who not only don’t love us, but actively seek to persecute us? On our own, we can’t.

It is only by receiving the one we celebrate in this holy sacrifice of the Mass, the real presence of Jesus Christ, that we are transformed through the Holy Spirit to rise above what is wrong in order to do what is right.

We cannot underestimate the divisions that challenge us to love one another. Nor can we overestimate how, by the grace of God, it is easier than we think when we make the effort.

United in this celebration of the Eucharist, into each of our hearts, we receive the perfect love of Jesus. We are given the grace of the very sacraments we celebrate so that we may show his love in any and all circumstances, to any and all people, including among ourselves.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, in this sacred time, we are elevated above and beyond all divisions, persecutions and whatever words or actions that might make someone our enemy.

When the all-too-human drags us down as a Church, the mystical body of Christ lifts us up with a love greater than sin and a life greater than death.

There are many in our world who would be sympathetic to us as Catholics and as priests if we were disheartened, disillusioned, divided and demoralized. So let us by the grace of God be gracious to one another and generous in our attention. May our fraternity in the hotel halls, elevators, and on the streets be a visible witness to the greater love of Jesus.

Truly, our joyful spirit is indeed proof of the existence of God.

Gracia en la division, arraigada en la gratitud a Dios

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Category: Only Jesus