Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that He comes to fulfill the law of the Old Testament…

And He does this with love.

Back in His day, the Jewish Religious leaders taught the people

that they had to follow hundreds of laws, to the exact letter…

they took pride in how closely they followed these rules –

pride is not the reason to follow any guidance from God is it?

All these restrictions could be kind of overwhelming –

You know what that’s like, when your life’s full of strict rules,

you feel constrained, boxed up, you don’t have room to live.

You spend more time trying to remember the list of rules,

than why you need to follow them.

Jesus knew this and boiled it down to two basic, simple, but very challenging commandments – Love God and Love your neighbor…

Following His command to love

breaks down the restrictions placed on us by society.

When we do this, we’re on our way to His side for eternity –

and the great thing is, He’s with us on our journey

We need to follow Christ –   and He is love…

all we do, we should do with Love.   –    But what does that mean?

We have many examples of what He means

when He tells us to Love God and Neighbor.

Remember Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan?  –

love your neighbor and everyone is your neighbor

What about the Prodigal Son? – God’s love and mercy are boundless –

we should show such love and mercy to all who hurt us…

These teach us how to act with love… But God wants more than action…

In today’s Gospel, He teaches us something that might sound kind of scary,

He not only wants us to act lovingly, with care for each other –   He wants us to mean it!

He wants our hearts to be full of love as we take loving actions…

And He knows what’s in our hearts.

This means that even if we’re acting nice to someone,

even if we can manage a smile while doing so  –  

God wants us to really mean what we’re doing.

The thing is, we can easily modify behavior, but only you –

with God’s help – can change your heart.   And that’s what’s important.

The situations Jesus teaches us with in the Gospel today are ordinary –

Anger  –   lust  –   

But just think what will happen if we handle these in our life with love  –

Remember, the temptation isn’t the sin –

The sin is when we consciously decide to follow that temptation

where we know we shouldn’t go.  Whether we physically or mentally remove ourselves from the temptation, we must use our God given gift of free will to push the temptation away!

We must turn to God during these struggles –  ask Him for His grace,

Ask for His loving mercy to help us move away from the sin that confronts us…

This means changing the TV channel, with a prayer in our heart –

when a raunchy add pops up. Or not clicking onto the websites we know are full of lusty images –

not reading the blogs that we know will make us angry –

Even better, beyond avoiding temptation to sin, let’s use that time that we so often waste -to actually spend time with those we care about – our friends and family.

Maybe taking a walk and observing God’s magnificent work in nature,

or even playing a board game and catching up with each other.

These are simple, but true ways to help our hearts stay along the path

God has chosen for us…

There are plenty of examples of how to follow God’s teaching in our world,

besides the well known modern Saints like John Paul II and Mother Teresa,

we can find people showing us the way all over, if we look.

One such couple is Chiara and Enrico Petrillo

Have you heard of them?  – maybe read the book about their lives together? –

Its’ called Chiara Corbella Petrillo, A Witness to Joy

I won’t give you a full book report –  you should take the time to read it –

but let me share with you a part of their story.

Chiara and Enrico were very devout young Italian Catholics

who met  while on a pilgrimage –

They weren’t perfect, they had an on again – off again courtship.

But after some time, they felt called by God to marry each other

and they shared their lives together in very challenging circumstances.

This wasn’t hundreds of years ago,

This isn’t a story about a man and woman of the middle ages,

I’m talking about a couple who met, fell in love and started a family

around ten years ago…

The initial challenge they faced was the conception of a child

that they knew was going to be born in such poor health,

she wouldn’t survive long outside the womb.

Advised to abort by several doctors,

Chiara and Enrico knew this little girl was a gift from God

and they endured the hardship that comes along with that first pregnancy,

all the while knowing the outcome was not going to be acceptable

to the society around them.

After all, even though the Church teaches that all life is precious,

from conception to natural death,

surely these circumstances allowed the parents to end the life growing inside Chiara

at their convenience…

That’s what they were advised to do by many doctors and others

who thought the acceptable boundaries of society were more important

than the law of love demanded by God.

Enrico and Chiara got through this by allowing God to embrace them and their baby throughout the tumult that surrounded them.  

They moved through this challenging time – surrounding each other

and allowing God to surround them, with Love.

They avoided the temptation of anger and became closer to each other –

and to God in the process…

When baby Maria was born, she was, as the doctors predicted,

in such a seriously unhealthy condition that she only lived, in her parents arms,

for about half an hour.

The young couple hugged and kissed the little miracle of life they held,

showing her to the family and friends who gathered together with them in the hospital,

A priest friend of theirs baptized the little girl, all present praying in thanksgiving to God.

A few days later, they celebrated Maria’s short life with a joyful funeral

Where Enrico played guitar and sang, while Chiara played violin…

This young couple chose to follow God’s will for them,

supporting each other with loving hearts, actions and prayers.

The way they celebrated baby Maria’s life impacted those around them, but was misunderstood by some…

Five months later, at the Church of Saint Frances in Rome –

Chiara stepped up to a microphone to share in a public way

the love story of their little girl, Maria –

Enrico and Chiara had been confronted with so many people who could not understand

why they carried their baby to term,

that they were called by God to share the Truth – which is love – the love of God –

felt during the pregnancy and especially in those precious minutes of life on earth

they shared with their baby.  

Enrico and Chiara’s story doesn’t end there,

like I said, there’s much more to it, some heart breaking,

but all of it inspiring…

They’re a wonderful modern example of the hearts of love God calls us all to have –

The love that dwells in us when we’re receptive to Christ’s call

to reject the temptations in life – rejecting the temptation so sin-

Rejecting anger, lust and all the deadly sins…

Chiara and Enrico show us how to break away from the restrictive rules

our 21st century society puts on us – to live in the full freedom of Christ –

not only acting with love to others, but to receive and share His love in our hearts.

They show us how to break through the barriers the world puts around us –

The fences and walls of selfishness and pride – to touch others –

even during times of suffering – with the love of God…

As we prepare to share in the Eucharist  – the perfection of His love for us –

the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Savior –

let’s open our hearts to Jesus’ merciful forgiveness so we can be beacons of His love –

Let’s beg Him to enter us and to drive away all the temptations to sin –

Let’s rely on Him to get us through the struggles of life –

in a way that bring both us and those around us closer to Him.