Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount-probably his longest and most important preaching-unveiling new demands of the law of love. In today’s Gospel, He places before us one of the most difficult to understand and even more difficult to live: not to stand up to those who offend us, to love our enemies, and to do good to those who persecute us. How can we live like that?
A story is told about Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of our parish. One day he was robbed by thieves. He fled, and they chased him into the cave where he lived. Once there, he turned around and, smiling, offered them what little food he had. You have to understand, Francis had little to lose; his only desire was rather to win for Christ the hearts of those who robbed him. Imagine that! Can we live like that? Can we live so as to only desire to win for Christ the hearts of others around us?
The only person capable of fulfilling the words of the Lord in the Gospel is the one who, like Saint Francis of Assisi, has given up everything and wants to keep nothing in this world. You will not be able to turn the other cheek if you have not renounced your pride. You will not be able to give your shirt if you have not already renounced buying a new coat. You will not be able to go two miles with those who ask you, if you have not renounced your time. And you will not be able to win others for Christ if, first, you have not given up everything else in this world.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent once again. What are you giving up? We will hear once again the call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. What difference will it make when you eat just one meal on Wednesday and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent? What will you do with your hunger? Your discomfort? Your extra time and money? Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are meant to draw us closer to Jesus, to imitate him in his radical surrender of love to the Father. That’s exactly what Saint Francis of Assisi did.
Our Diocesan Ministry Appeal is just one simple opportunity to practice this kind of renunciation. Did you make your donation yet? Our parish goal is 190,000 dollars. How generous are you?
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us
Rev. Mark Zacker