Renew a Steadfast Spirit

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20

My Dear Friends in Christ,

As we continue our series, Blessed!, we are offered the challenge of today’s Gospel. Powerful words from Jesus strike at the heart of who a disciple is. Jesus intensifies, rather than rejects the Law, making it even more demanding and challenging. Jesus imposes conditions, not only on the externals of our lives, but above all on the abiding attitudes of our heart and on the concrete results these attitudes have on our actions. The true disciple must do more than follow the rules. God cannot dwell in the heart of one exteriorly clean but who, in the deepest recess of that heart, is filled with hatred, murderous thoughts, and lustful desires. When we harbor these thoughts and feelings, when we “feed” them, when we maintain a habit of being selfish, angry, greedy or lustful, Jesus enjoins the exact same guilt as for an act of murder.

But this Gospel is far more than just a negative warning. With these same words, Jesus offers the fulfillment God’s promise through Jeremiah:

“This is the covenant I will make with Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will set my law within them and write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:33).

Jesus is the Finger of God writing on our hearts the tender yet powerful touch of God’s love. And the simple, absolute, and unsurpassable law Jesus inscribes in our hearts is the Law of the love of God. That Law is mercy and forgiveness, graciously given, freely offered.

And this love and mercy is offered to ALL. Jesus defines every person as my brother (or sister) precisely by not adding any qualifying adjective or other restriction whatsoever. The human family is no longer divided; all are sisters and brothers; all are embraced by OUR Father. Jesus is the incarnate Word who put on, who assumed, our human nature in every way save sin. If God takes on our humanity, then every person is my blood brother or sister in the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.

This is a challenging message, especially for our day and age when we are faced with so much division, so much “us and them” in every area of life, from the Church to politics, to neighborhoods, races and citizenships. Jesus calls us to a larger vision and invites us into a bigger picture.

In the challenge offered by Jesus, we’re also reminded that it is God who provides, God who forgives, God who purifies, God who strengthens, and God who works within us. Our pastoral plan seeks to focus us and keep us focused on God, and what God wants FOR us as a community, to move beyond our own comfort and share what God seeks to give, more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Our goal is to open our heart and minds and hands to God’s light for us that we may be that light for others. Please remember the listening sessions; if you were not able to attend the one on Saturday, September 15, then please come to the one on Tuesday, February 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Legacy Room of Holy Family.

This call of Jesus to recognize each as a brother or sisters is why the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries is so important. The money raised through the Annual Appeal is not used for the operating budget of the central offices nor is it used to pay insurance or abuse claims. It’s our chance to share our blessings, reaching out to some of those most in need in our Archdiocesan family. How blessed we are!


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