Christian believers are called to “remember their dignity” and to seek and always to live the abundant life offered in Jesus Christ. Admittedly, this is a tall order. What person has always honored their dignity and lived life fully?
It seems we’re all willing to sell ourselves short, give up on excellence, forget our neighbors, compromise holiness and call both evil good and good evil. In light of this fallen reality, we could say that the subtitle of the Catholic Church is “missed opportunity.”
In the gospel reading this weekend at Mass, we hear a continuation of Saint Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. Compared to Saint Matthew, who composes the Sermon on the Mount in a beautiful, systematic three-chapter long, extensive discourse that parallels the teachings of Moses, we could say Luke is writing a combination of bullet points and chicken scratch.
Luke’s version of the Lord’s teachings on his way of life are sporadic, and seemingly disjointed. The account however, should not be underestimated, nor its power misjudged. In what is oftentimes called Saint Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (since, in spite of Matthew, there were no prominent mounts in the area of the Lord’s ministry), the Beloved Physician describes the most excellent way of love.
In his own way, and according to his own gentile background, Luke describes for us the life that we should each aspire to live and the way of life that the unbeliever should rightly expect to see among Christian believers.
And yet, once again we have missed opportunity. How are we to respond to a life called to holiness and yet oftentimes diminished by darkness? What are we to do when the ball has been dropped?
The apostle Saint Paul, Luke’s revered mentor, tells us that “by the grace of God, we are what we are.” He continues and teaches us that the path is difficult, the falls are burdensome, but the journey is not over. With our faults, and in spite of our faults, grace abounds, and the glory of God is still available to us.
And so, in our moments of weakness and compromise, we are summoned back to our true selves and invited to reclaim the missed opportunity and to start over. We are called to give it our best go (again).
As we see the tension between light and darkness play out in our hearts, and as we wrestle between missed opportunity and claimed inheritance, the teachings of Jesus Christ offer us a sober discernment and an honest assessment of who we are and of what is right. And once again we are welcomed to accept his way of life and receive his blessings.
As this is true in our own souls, so it is true in the life of the Church. It appears that we have so many missed opportunities, so many omissions, and so many lost chances to be holy as a people and fight for goodness.
Whether in the defense of children and vulnerable people, or as advocates for immigrants and refugees, or being a voice for the unborn and victims of human trafficking, will we miss an opportunity? Will we take a stand, speak words of righteousness and boldly act as a people committed to justice and love?
In his Sermon on the Plain, Luke recounts the teachings of the Lord Jesus: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
The constant invitation to be better therefore, is given to each of us every day. It is offered to the Church and her leadership every day. It is provided to the human family every day and in each circumstance.
The means and the strength to live this invitation, which are beyond our own abilities, is generously poured out in abundance to anyone, or any leader, who has the humility, the conviction, the willingness, and the fortitude to say “Yes” to the powerful opportunity – no longer missed – to share in a vision where the defenseless are protected, the vulnerable are selflessly served and goodness is cherished.
It’s a vision where enemy forgives enemy, neighbor helps neighbor, and the righteous choose to shine as the sons and daughters of God.