2 Kings 24:8-17
What does it mean to be a Christian? Today’s words from Matthew and the preceding verses and chapters, give a clear definition of our role as Christians- followers of Christ and heirs of the Kingdom.
Today Jesus tells us that you can’t just proclaim the name of the Lord, you can’t even perform miracles in God’s name and expect to get into the Kingdom. You must do the will of the Father. And in the preceding verses and chapters, we hear what is the will of the Father. Starting with the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us clearly that being a Christian means it is not enough to just love God; being Christian always has to include the dimension of loving and caring for our neighbor (and our enemy).
Throughout the New Testament, we are told over and over again that Jesus is most disturbed by the sin of hypocrisy. As we read today’s words, what comes to mind is someone who proclaims God’s name loudly and tries to impress with miracles performed in God’s name but who doesn’t live out the message of the Gospel. This was the way Jesus often depicted the Pharisees. And, of course, today’s world is also peopled with modern "Pharisees." Those who make a show of their devotions and loudly proclaim their belief but fail to care for others– these are not living the life of a Christian.
It’s pretty easy to fall into this way of life. It is nice weather and it is delightful to sit out on the patio to read my Bible. Then I may pray a bit and talk to God about my life and some of the things I need. But if I do this and avoid helping at our parish’s food drive or ignore the neighbor who is ill or don’t reach out in the ways we are called, I am not being a follower of Christ.
Today is the feast day of St. Irenaeus. While we don’t know too much about him, we do know that he was a pastor, a Bishop and a martyr who was born in the first half of the second century. Undoubtedly, he understood his role as a Christian, caring for the church and the people of God, even to the point of sacrificing his life.
May we too be Christians – especially when it takes us out of our comfort zones.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.