Now is the time . . . maybe

As we all keep our distance during this time of COVID-19 we are hearing some messages telling us how this is a great time for self-improvement. I get it. I was thinking that it would be a great time to get back to yoga, meditate, read, clean, try new recipes, have deep conversations with my family, write a novel, draw, paint, clean the basement, plant a garden, write a year’s worth of sermons- you get the picture. That was before I even scrolled through my social media feeds that were offering me many opportunities to be better. Now is the time to do it! Maybe not.

I get it. I like the idea of being better at things. I have been eating like I was preparing to hibernate all winter. I could stand to move a little bit and pay attention to my nutrition. We all have things that we can improve. Even so, some folks I know can pour on the willpower and then collapse in a pile of shame. Some of us wrap up this perfectionism with religious language as though the object of faith is to be the best that we can be.

Out faith calls us to love. Jesus cites a summary of the law in Matthew 22:35-40. A lawyer asks Jesus,

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (NRSV)

As we go about well-meaning efforts of self-improvement, may we do so with love for God, others, and ourselves. Pause and remind yourself that God loves us as we are. We aren’t doing these things to earn God’s love. Indeed, love for others just might be the thing that encourages us to get healthier or make time to listen to others. Patience with the process of growth and improvement may well be a way of showing compassion to ourselves.

As we enter into Holy Week and move toward Easter, remember that this demonstration of God’s love was a way of sharing. God shares in humanity by entering into human life even to death. That isn’t a way of perfection by most standards. God’s way is to pour forth God’s self in love and invite us into the sharing of ourselves in love. To show love for us, God became like us in Jesus.

We are living in a time when we are all made aware of our mortality. Christ is with us there. As we realize the fragility of life show compassion to others and yourself. Go ahead and take on a renewed commitment to prayer, exercise, or a forgotten hobby. Do so with love. Enter into it as an offering to God, a gift that can serve others, and a love for yourself as a beloved child of God. In doing so our lists might be shorter, our experience deeper, and the results surprising.

Now is the time to renew our love.

Peace,

Fr. John Mark

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