Sunday thoughts: November 2018

By Monsignor John Devine

The Beatles sang ‘All you need is love’. Simple, I thought; none of those negative ‘thou shalt not’
commandments. Loving God and loving neighbour sounds a lot easier. As I look back on my life, I realise it hasn’t been simple, and certainly not easy. My personal performance graph levelled out some time ago and often takes a dive. My school reports included the comment ‘could do better’. That sums me up sixty years later.

So what is the Christian life project about? If it involves the pursuit of perfection then I’ve had it. Does this
sound hopeless? It needn’t be. Once we have attempted the treadmill of compliance and perfection, and
failed, the real journey begins. The missing ingredient is the grace of God. And the grace of God works best in desperation. The Jesus of the Gospels was the friend of sinners, of those who couldn’t make it. His message resonated with their failure. And that’s why the Institution – be it religious or civic – not only failed to understand him but saw him as a threat.

I return frequently to the words of Father Jock Dalrymple in his book Longest Journey: ‘I can remember that the most important discovery was to know that my mediocrity and sins were no obstacle, but an advantage to receiving the gracious mercy of God; that pursuing perfection and pleasing God were two quite different aims, and that I could do the latter without achieving the former.’

So we come full circle. It’s all about the love of God. It’s simple, after all. But as John tells us, it’s not our love for God but God’s love for us. Once we accept this, the bonus is that we’ve no justification for judging others.