Sunday, February 16, 2014


After Mass today a local judge told me that a local lawyer used to have a license plate which read, "LOOPHOLE"...

   Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time    

The kids were lined up for lunch at the local Catholic school.
At the head of the serving table was a large bowl of apples.
After watching the bowl carefully for awhile,
Sr. Mary Matilda wrote a note
and posted it by the apples:
Take only ONE.  God is watching!
The children kept moving down the line,
and at the other end of the table
found a large tray of chocolate chip cookies.
Looking at that tray,
one of the boys quickly wrote a note
and posted it next to the cookies:
Take all you want.  God is watching the apples.

He’s a different kind of religious leader, they say.
He smiles a lot and he’s very kind.
He has such compassion for the poor.
He’s so gentle with the sick.
Have you seen how he embraces little children?
He’s always talking about God’s mercy 
and about forgiveness.
He keeps reaching out to those on the margins—
even to those who aren’t religious at all.

If I were to now add:
And he made the front cover of Rolling Stone,
you’d guess I was speaking about Pope Francis.
But the above could easily have been said about Jesus—
and probably was;
it’s exactly the sort of thing which might have prompted
Jesus’ teaching on the law in this Sunday’s Gospel.
Why?  Because it’s the sort of thinking
which would have let a whole bunch of people 
write him off much too easily.

We have an awfully complicated relationship with rules.
That goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.
God gave them just one…and they still blew it.
And ever since,
we’ve been working hard to find ways around them.
Whether it’s our parents or the police,
Sr. Mary Matilda or God himself,
we keep hoping we might get away with something—
whether big or small:
to break the rules, and not get caught.

Oh, if we could only heal our relationship with the law!

Get out on the open road,
and we chafe at having to obey the speed limit…
…but imagine how dangerous the roads would be
without any traffic laws at all.
It’s safe to say that very few people
enjoy learning all the rules of spelling and grammar…
…but it would be nearly impossible
to communicate effectively without them.
(Of course, texting and Twitter
are already giving us a taste of that…)
And there would be no sports at all—
leave alone the Olympics we’re all enjoying—
if it weren’t for the regulations.

We’ve got this mistaken sense—
borne of that original sin, of course—
that laws are made to prevent us from having any fun,
to prevent us from having a full and fruitful life…
…when quite the opposite is the case:
law is there to make life and joy possible
and—in the case of God’s law—
to make eternal life and joy possible for us.

What if we decided to look at the law
not as a burden, but as a gift?
What if we chose to approach it as something set in place
not to keep us down, but to lift us up?

You see, that’s precisely God’s perspective on the matter!
The Lord’s not watching over our shoulders like a petty tyrant
bent on dictating  what to do or not to do.
Instead, God has given us sure standards
for becoming who we ought to be—
for becoming the men and women he created us to be.
God has done so because he loves us—
loves us absolutely.
And there’s nobody more qualified to show us the way!

It’s been a year already since Pope Benedict announced his resignation,
and the world’s still clearly in its honeymoon phase
with his successor, Pope Francis.
But listen carefully to what the Pope has to say—
and not only to all the superficial reports about him
in the popular press—
and you’ll realize that he’s not “softening up”
on Church teaching or discipline,
as so many have hastily concluded;
in fact, the Pope’s actually calling us to something more:
to a more intense faith,
and to a more radical way of living it out.

And that’s just what Jesus did, too.
It’s not enough that you avoid killing your brother;
you must also avoid angry thoughts or hurtful words about him.
It’s not enough for you to shun illicit sexual encounters;
lust first takes hold in the eyes, the mind, and the heart—
and that’s where it must be plucked out by the roots.
Don’t be concerned about telling the truth only when you’re under oath;
always give your word and keep it—period.
I haven’t come to abolish the law; I’ve come to fulfill it.

Actor and comedian W. C. Fields 
was by no means a religious man.
Which is why a friend was so surprised
to see him with a Bible shortly before he died.
Asked what he was doing,
Fields replied, “Been lookin’ for loopholes…”

Let’s stop looking for loopholes
in the rules laid down for us by God,
and instead start looking for guidance in living—
guidance with an eternal guarantee.
Let’s obey Gods commands
not begrudgingly, not with heavy hearts,
but with joy—
and let’s teach others to do likewise.
They are, after all, the pathway to life.

Blessed are they
who follow the law of the Lord!

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