Fr John’s Reflection 30th Sunday of the Year

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 27th October

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To be good or to do good

One of the temptations of the Christian life is to believe that we win God’s love by what we do rather than who we are called to become. If we believe that our goodness is judged by the number of good acts that we perform then we will only be judged by our last good act. We will also start to believe that our relationship with God is based on transactions rather than relationship. We become hooked on a spirituality which is as transparent as our fly buy cards or the number of reward points that we have collected. We can start to treat God in the same way by bargaining our way through life by saying something like,   ” I have done all these good things, now I would like this to happen in my life”. We also start to make comparisons with others especially when from outward appearance their life does not appear to be as holy and devout as our own. We can start to see God as our own personal friend who deals with us exclusively on our own terms.

Yet the reality that we discover is that we are called to be good in spite of all the struggles that we encounter in life. This includes our own internal struggle to live a life which responds to the grace of God in a way that does not just focus on my own goodness. The heart of the spiritual life is to recognise that it is God who loved us first and who wants to enter into a relationship as we are at the moment. This is especially true when we experience our own failures, sinfulness, addictive behaviour and lack of vision. We come before God not because we are perfect but so that we can be perfected in God’s love for us. This calls us to notice that our holiness does depend solely on our good acts as though it can be achieved through our own effort. Rather it is a discovery that God wants to work with us each day to strengthen a relationship which enables us to undertake good actions which flow out of that enduring relationship. In this way, we discover the freedom to be ourselves and creativity which glorifies God with our whole life.  No longer do we engage in God acts because they will bring rewards in the future which guarantee our salvation, we engage in God acts because they are an expression of God’s love for us and our love for God and for others. 

In this way, we discover a humility which does not diminish us but enlivens us to walk with God each day. It allows each day to be a gentle surrender to God’s providence to provide what is needed and how we can be present to others. It is an open-hearted response which says yes to each day to the people I meet and the work that I undertake with love and compassion. 

Fr. John Armstrong