Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
June 30th, 2013
Year C

I’m sure we are familiar with “The Golden Rule” – Do to others as you would them do to you. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I heard this when I was kid. It is the ultimate rule for being unselfish and kind. It's common sense to recognize that everyone will be better off if each person thinks about the welfare of those around them as well as their own. In great art and literature, the struggle against the chains of evil is always depicted as the struggle for the triumph of freedom and love. Think about Charles Dickens's unforgettable character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Until he began to love his neighbors as himself, he was imprisoned in darkness and misery. Living the Golden Rule set him free.

Science teaches the same thing. In 1982, Bernard Rimland, Director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research, conducted a psychological study on the Golden Rule. Each person was asked to list the ten people they knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they went through the list again and labeled each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: "a stable tendency to devote one's time and resources to one's own interests and welfare - an unwillingness to inconvenience one's self for others." Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He concluded: “[Those] whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness... are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy.”

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul tells the Galatians: “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” He has spent the first four chapters of this letter convincing them not to go back to the slavery of the Old Testament laws, which had been just a preparation for the law of the Gospel, the law of authentic freedom. But he realizes that some people may misinterpret this freedom, seeing it as a freedom from any moral restrictions at all, a freedom to do whatever their selfish tendencies feel like. That's not the case. Sin and selfishness in any form are types of slavery, and St Paul makes that clear. He explains that any time the members of a community are all focused on their own selfish aims, they end up “biting and devouring one another” and are eventually “consumed by one another.”

It seems to me that we find the same tragic misunderstanding of authentic freedom in our time. We live in a “pro-choice” society that tells us if we do not have choices then we are not free. Like the Galatians, freedom understood in this sense is a freedom from moral restrictions. As such, this type of freedom then becomes a freedom to do whatever one feels like. As St. Paul challenges the Galatians, he does so for us as well. He reminds them that this notion of freedom only serves oneself. He exhorts them to selflessness, to serve one another through love for the whole law and the prophets can be summed up in the golden rule – to love God and your neighbor as yourself.

We find this same teaching in the Gospel of today’s Mass. Our Lord spells out what is involved in following Him. It will not be easy. In what may seem like rather harsh statements towards those whom He has invited to be His followers, Jesus calls them to a higher standard. Fr. Robert Barron comments on it in this way:

“What he is making unmistakably clear is that nothing – not even the most sacred values within the world – is more important or more compelling than one’s participation in the reign of God. It is relatively easy to see that neither wealth nor pleasure nor power should be one’s ultimate concern…”

Our Lord is inviting those people to follow Him in freedom. While the rebuke may seem harsh, He recognizes the hindrances in them. He sees the obstacles that prevent them from fully entering into His discipleship. The way they see the invitation is simply as another choice among many. Following Jesus seems like a better option than what they have going for themselves now. To follow Him, then, would not have been a free choice. It would have been self-serving rather than self-giving. True and authentic freedom is humble, passionate, complete and total. It is the decision to follow Jesus Christ for the sake of Christ. This is what makes the prophet Elisha’s act one of complete freedom. He burns up his plowing equipment and sacrifices his oxen as if to say: “I leave it all behind, and dedicate myself to the living God.”

The whole of our lives, therefore, must be directed to making the free choice of following the Lord in daily lives – not for self-gain, but rather to gain Christ, to obtain grace, to enter into the true joy of the Lord. This choice is not one of a “freedom from” but rather a “freedom for.” Jesus calls and invites each of us to follow Him in this way. He says to us: “Follow me.” And how will we respond? For when the Lord calls us to discipleship, He will not settle for a half-hearted response. He desires the totality of who are – mind, body, heart and soul. The response we give to Our Lord, then, cannot be found in more choices. For just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. There is only one choice – and it is the best one – choose Christ, choose to serve Him, choose to love Him and our neighbor as ourselves. In other words selflessness, self-denial, self-giving this is the key to true freedom – a freedom of the heart in which lies the joy of the Lord.












Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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