Gospel reading for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 23:1-12
The other day we were on our way home from a birthday party. My kids were sugared up from cake, loudly arguing in the back seat. If there was a break in the fighting, it was because one of them was whining or asking for more, more, more. Their demands were relentless. I was tired. While trying my best to ignore them, I thought to myself: It’s never enough. It never ends. They’ll never be happy. And I’ll never live in peace.
My children had sucked the life out of me. As we neared home, I contemplated slowing down, throwing them onto the front lawn, and driving off. Alone. But something told me that probably wasn’t a great idea. So I pulled into the garage, sent them inside, and said a not-so-polite prayer: “God, you gave me these kids. YOU DO THIS. I can’t do it anymore.”
I walked inside and found Vincent crying and fiercely pounding on his sister’s locked bedroom door. He still wanted to fight; she wanted to escape. I furiously sent Vincent to his room. Typically, in end-of-my-rope situations like these, I get angrier before finally reconciling. I throw stuff, break something, or scream. Sometimes I do all three. But that day, something a little bit different happened. I followed Vincent into his room and instead of seeing an annoying little terror, I saw my son. I saw a sad and tired boy whose body was running on too many unhealthy snacks. I saw the boy I thought I might not ever have – the miracle who occasionally looks at me like I am the most important person in the whole world.
He needed to be loved, not left. Cuddled, not yelled at. So, I picked him up, turned on some music, and danced with him. He melted into my arms and giggled. This is something I’ve NEVER thought of doing, nor wanted to do, when my kids were being difficult. This was God – answering my prayer, as rude as it was – bringing love to the surface of a situation layered with anger and frustration and exhaustion. And our day got a whole lot better.
Maybe I’m just an exceptionally inept human, but I’m starting to realize that anything good in my life, God has done. Whether I asked Him to or not, the good stuff all comes from Him. Brilliant parenting decisions? God made them. Making a choice because it’s the loving thing to do even if it’s not the easy thing to do? God’s idea. Feeling genuinely happy because I did something selfless? You guessed it, God’s intervention.
This Sunday’s Gospel reading is about how our actions matter – what we do and how we live. Actually doing good things rather than just talking about them, and practicing what we preach. It’s also about doing the right things for the right reason (love) rather than the wrong reasons (control, seeking praise, fear of rejection, etc.).
For me, the answer lies in a closer connection with Christ. I can’t effectively or consistently do good for the right reasons unless I let Him take over. I have to let go to be free to live in love. My hope is that as I figure out more and more how to actually do this, choosing love in a tough situation will come more naturally to me. I want to be good and do good for good reasons – but I need God’s grace to get me there.