One of the many challenges a Pastor faces in today’s day and age is tempering the radicalness of the Gospel with the desire for a ‘feel good’ message. The past several weeks our readings have severely challenged us, and if we have been listening and paying attention then we should feel uncomfortable at times about what Jesus and the scriptures are telling us. Examples include: Stop trying to please yourself. Don’t forget to take up your cross and follow. Deny yourself. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…. Should I go on??
At times I hear the complaint that; ‘Father, I want to feel good when I come to church.’ I have to admit that homilies that are more ‘feel good’ are easier to preach, and often times result in compliments and accolades. Homilies that challenge are often times met with complaints and harsh reactions. As disciples we need be honest with ourselves and ask; ‘Am I perfect? Do I have any room in my life for improvement? Am I ok with Jesus challenging me to be better?’ Speaking for myself, I know that in preparing for a homily, the scriptures often challenge my own life and way of thinking. I too feel uncomfortable by what scripture says I need to do, but I also realize, that’s ok. Jesus isn’t done with me yet!
So, what should we do?
When something challenging is presented and strikes a nerve, it’s always best not to react immediately. Ask, why is this message upsetting or challenging? Is the Holy Spirit trying to make us aware of an area of our life that needs to grow? Does the challenge make us aware that our lives are not perfect? Pray about what has struck a nerve in us, ask the Holy Spirit to give insight, and be ready to grow. Being ready to grow means that I may have to change my ways, or even intentionally make an effort to improve an action or vice in my life.
Last week, our parish began reflecting on the knots that the Road to Renewal is focusing upon during the Penitential Rite. This is an opportunity for all of us to be challenged to change how we as church respond to the mired past of our Diocese and pray that the Holy Spirit, through the mercy of God, helps us to grow and change to be more Christlike. The challenges of the Gospel aren’t just uncomfortable for those who attend church, but they are also quite the challenge for the church leadership herself. Our scriptures are radical and our Gospels are clear, we have to recognize our imperfection, allow ourselves to be open to change, and begin to embrace the hope that comes with making the Gospel a part of our lives.
Remember, Jesus isn’t done with us yet. If we plan on going to heaven, we certainly better be ready to accept the challenge of the Gospel and work at changing our lives each and every day.