Godtalk: A word of encouragement


Credit Enver Rahmanov via Creative Commons

Christ is the giver of Good News, pointing the way to live life to the full.  ‘I came’, said Jesus,’ that you might have the fullness of life.’ John 10.10   But the Good News, the Gospel,  includes some ‘hard sayings’ Matt 5. 17-48   Jesus' teaching shows up our human frailties. Right living starts with right attitudes.  We need to control our thoughts and emotions before they result in outward actions.

Hearing this, some people are going to feel uncomfortable. For example, they may be in a marital situation, not recognised by the Church, but unable to leave their irregular situation without injustice to their present family.  How should we preach the fullness of Christ's message without hurting people?
The starting point must surely be to remember that in the limited time at Mass the celebrant has to take particular points from the gospel as a whole. And most of the gospel is about forgiveness and praise for goodness in people.

Christ was and still is both the preacher of perfection and the forgiver of sinners.   He ‘hates the sin but loves the sinner’;  he is  ‘firm but fair.’  His final word then and now is ‘go and sin no more.’ John 8.11 It would be wonderful to live that way, but although we may have that intention, we can’t guarantee it.

At the same time, it would be a mistake to think that our sin is the most important thing in our lives.   There is a danger that we can become so preoccupied with our sin we forget about our goodness.   We can never be content with our sin of course, but neither should we ever ignore goodness.

Some people do seem to have a hang-up about sin, always going on about ‘a wicked world,’ and it's not unusual for them to focus on particular kinds of sin, with no regard for charity.

As followers of Christ we should be more balanced, acknowledging our sins but also conscious of goodness, including goodness in ourselves. Whilst ‘could do better’ applies to us all, given the Church’s teaching on original sin, it’s often surprising and gratifying to see how good people can be.

There is, for example, the heroism of those who ‘choose life’, even in the most difficult circumstances: the sacrifice of those who give their lives for others, sometimes quite literally: the generosity of those who show real concern for others, even sharing all they have: the list could go on and, hopefully, we will both share these ideals and, to some degree, live them.

As disciples of Christ we are to be as like Christ as we can be, in the way we think, the way we speak, the way we live. Whilst we will never be faultless, we cannot be content with our sin, our faults and failings.

The gospel is a challenge, and hopefully we will accept that challenge even though it may be difficult, and for all of us, demand changes in our lives. But most real and lasting change takes time and effort. ‘In a higher world it may be otherwise, but here below, to live is to change;  to be perfect is to change often.’  Cardinal Newman