24 February 2019

Choose your measure wisely

7th Sunday OT (C)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Sinners are a lot like saints. They love those who love them and forgive those who forgive them. Sinners will even do a good deed for someone who's done a good deed for them. Sinners go to work everyday, raise their kids, pay their bills, visit sick relatives, give Christmas presents. And they even show up to Church once in a while. In the eyes of the world, a sinner can be a Good Person who's trying hard to do and be better. Nothing wrong with that. But Jesus sets the goal higher for those who will follow him. We must be better than the sinner who's just trying to be and do better. Not “better” in the sense of being Holier Than Thou but “better” in the sense of being more deeply convicted of our sin and more thoroughly committed to growing in holiness. A big part of our on-going growth in holiness depends on how we choose to live in the world while not being of the world. Jesus tells us how to do this: “. . .the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” That's right – you get to choose the measure with which you will measured. Choose wisely.

Sinners can be a lot like saints. They can try hard to be Good People – like avoiding truly evil deeds – and even be Good People in the eyes of the world. In fact, without Padre Pio's gift for reading souls, you and I can look at a sinner and see a saint. We can also look in a mirror and see a saint. Perhaps we're deceiving ourselves when we do, perhaps not. Regardless, there's no deceiving God. He knows the size and shape of the measure we use to measure other people's souls. The sinner uses a Self Shaped Measure about the size of his/her pride. The saint uses a Christ Shaped Measure about the size of his/her humility. And that's largely the difference btw a sinner and a saint – not effort or intent but who designs the measure: Christ or the Self? Jesus teaches the disciples: “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you. . .” What Christ is commanding us to do specifically is clear. What he is commanding us to do generally is presume grace, always assume that God's grace is working overtime to transform the hearts and minds of sinners – that's you and me. We can name the sin and call it sin without judgment. We cannot name the sinner and call him a sinner without presuming to judge the state of his soul. Grace builds on nature. And – as we all know – large construction projects take time.

What's the state of your personal construction project? Your project to grow in holiness, to become Christ for others? There's no denying that what Christ is commanding us to do – love our enemies, do good for those who hate us – there's no denying that he is commanding us to achieve near super-human levels of charity here. But that's what we signed up for. We signed up to enter the long, slow progression from sinner to saint, and progress according to plan is sweat-inducing, even exhausting. We can despair at the delays and wail about the weather of our project. . .but there's no getting out of the fact that we are – each one of us – is the foreman of our holiness. I am solely responsible for the set-backs, the shoddy construction, the wasteful overtime, and all the violations the inspectors might find on-site. By the same token, I am also the principal beneficiary of any progress I make. But I don't work alone. The Christ Shaped Measure I need to succeed is freely given and must be freely received. Without condition or pretense, the Christ Shaped Measure must rule my heart and mind, building me up so that mercy and gratitude flow abundantly. This is the gift Christ gives us: we can be sinners-turned-saints. Measure wisely. Measure as if you were becoming Christ.

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