Sirach tells us today: If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live. This is a good summary of the call to conversion that we hear every Sunday in one way or another. In our hearts we hear God wake us up and show us what we were made to be.
Do not murder, nor adulterate, nor divorce, nor lie. These commandments in today's Gospel are good starting points, and if you keep them (which means to let them thrive in your heart and in your actions), then you will live. Jesus takes that foundation and ups the ante today, when he demands a righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees (those most upright people of His time). He shows us what we are truly called to.... and points out a funny thing about our fallen human nature: if we don't try for the best, we don't get very far. We have to go for it all as Christ calls us to, or we won't even make the minimum that the commandments demand of us.
It's National Marriage week, and the Holy Father met on Friday with 10,000 of engaged couples for a special audience in honor of the love celebrated on Valentine's Day. He was asked many questions, and one that was most important to me was about the fear of “forever.” This to me is a foundational crisis we all go through: how can someone be certain and make a perpetual commitment that steers their entire life? Fear of “forever” is the start of our vocation crisis, whether it be marriage, priesthood, or a life of faith in general – if we live in fear, we will never go “all in.” Pope Francis' answer was “forever” is built day-by-day, and is built up like a house, stone upon stone, board upon board.
My grandma is slowly passing from this earth, resigning herself to the cancer that has ravaged her energy and her appetite (but Thanks be to God, no pain). I went home and on Thursday I celebrated Mass at her bedside with grandpa, just the three of us on a makeshift altar. Right behind grandma hangs the photograph of them leaving Church on their wedding day. Afterwards, we talked for five minutes and she was thinking back to times when she was a child, showing me the miraculous medal she has worn since she was about 15. I squeezed her hand a little and she squeezed back, saying, “how did you know that? Who told you that?” I said, “Told me what?” “Me and your grandpa have been doing that for years.” And squeezing my hand three times she said, “I...Love...You.” and then four times for “I Love You, Too.” Then her exhaustion forced her to rest again. Little things, that's what builds up to “forever.” So don't be afraid of forever, just build it up day-by-day.
Say “yes” for today. Let our yes be yes and our no be no. Jesus is all yes. The cross shows us that God is not afraid of loving us forever. The Eucharist is the source of our strength to make that same commitment to our world and to each other. In our marriages we make a forever “yes” to another. In my priesthood I made a forever “yes” to Jesus and to you, His Bride, the Church. And this month, the Lord is calling our parish to make a kind of “yes” also to this campaign for our future, a “yes” built up day-by-day and founded on the “yes” that Jesus is for us. I now invite parishioner Jack Ruhe to come to the cantor stand and share his experience of responding generously to Christ's “yes” through his life. Thank you, Jack.