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DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

Father Francis's picture
Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Lk. 6:27-38

A teenage girl wants to have her nose pierced and wear a ring in it. Her mother refuses to give permission. Her daughter says, "Please, Mum, everyone is doing it." A teenage boy wants to get a tattoo. His father says, "No way." His son says, "But Dad, everyone is doing it." His wise father replies, "What if everyone jumps off a cliff, do you plan to jump too?"

Of course, this struggle does not end with the teen years. Throughout life we feel the pressure to conform, to live like everyone else lives. Jesus addressed this concern in today's Gospel. He pointed out the typical way of living, the way that nearly everyone lives and then He challenged His disciples to break ranks.

How do most of us relate to people? If people smile at us, we smile back at them. If they speak to us, we speak to them. I hope most of us respond to such people with warmth and friendliness.

However, some human encounters are totally different. What do we do then? Let's suppose that your next door neighbour never speaks to you and makes it plain that he does not wish for you to speak to him. If you speak to him, he looks the other way and pretends not to hear. In every possible way, he makes it clear that he does not want your friendship. Finally, you say to yourself, "Fine, we'll play it your way. If you're rude to me, I'll be rude to you. As far as I'm concerned, we can be neighbours for twenty years and never speak. That's alright by me!" If you should reach this conclusion, no one would blame you, because that's the way most of us feel, but Jesus challenges us to dare to be different. He says, "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who abuse you."

Why should we behave like Jesus suggests? It is surely a strange way to respond to rude people, but Jesus says we should. Why? What's the point? Are we hoping to convert that grumpy neighbour? That would be a happy result. Jesus gave us one reason for responding to rudeness with kindness, and it was that we might show ourselves to be "children of the Most High." That is the way God our Father responds to our meanness and sinfulness. He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish by letting His sun and rain fall on all, good and bad.

The other area where Jesus challenged us to be different is in how we deal with money. Our culture has a well-established pattern when it comes to handling money. We spend it on ourselves. First, we make certain that all of our necessities are covered. Then we start working on the luxuries. First we need a flat. Then we need a house. Then we need a larger house, then a larger house with a swimming pool. This pattern continues until we spend all of the money we make, on ourselves.

We are familiar with the popular television programme "Who wants to be a Millionaire"? We watch it to see how many answers we know and wish we could win a million. One of the interesting parts of the programme is when the host asks the contestant, "What are you going to do with all this money?" Some of the answers have been, “I am going to travel.” “I am going to pay my debts.” “I am going to use it to send my children to university.” “I am going to buy a new car.” “I am going to buy a new house.” We cannot fault any of these answers. It is good to travel, to pay one's debts, to save to send children to university, to buy a new car or a new house. But to my knowledge, no one has ever yet said, "I plan to use part of this money to feed hungry children."

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus said some strange things about money. "When a man takes what is yours, do not demand it back." That's a very hard act to follow. He also said, "Lend without expecting repayment." Those statements and others like them simply mean that we should use money for the benefit of others. How many of us do that? Anyone who does dares to be different.

Here's a good true story. Paul Newman, was a very popular and successful actor. Acting made him a wealthy man. In his latter years, he started a company that made and sold salad dressings. Every penny of the profits went to benefit underprivileged children. A reporter once asked Newman why he gave away all that money. His reply was classic. He said, "Why not? I don't need it." He dared to be different. Will we?

Lord Jesus, following your wise directions is not easy, but with Your help it is possible. May we have the courage to be generous. The rewards we will receive in the next world will be unbelievable!

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