Recently, a couple brought in their teenage son
asking me to talk to him about his grades.
His grades were slipping and
they were trying to figure out how to get these grades to come up.
Reluctantly I agreed to meet with them.
To be honest the first conversation did not go real.
Every response was from the boy was a grunt of some form.
God bless parents!
I was ready to kill him after the first session and recommended that!
Seriously, I had him come back for a second session.
This time I had a box of sand and a large jar and I said,
“I want you to take one handful of sand and fill the jar.”
He grunted and said “Okay.”
He grabs a handful of sand and pours it into the jar filling it half full.
I said, “No. I said a full jar.
What part of that did you not understand?”
He gets a little irritated saying, “Fine. Okay.”
This time he grabs as big a handful as he can get
and then pours it into the jar carefully.
This time it is three-quarters full.
I said, “Wow. You really don’t understand do you?
You are finding it hard to follow instructions.
I want you to fill the jar.”
“Well, I can’t. I don’t understand. I tried. I can’t.”
I said, “You really don’t get it do you?”
He snapped, “No. I don’t get it.
I don’t know what you are trying to tell me.”
I said, “One handful.”
He says, “I can’t with just one handful. I need both hands.”
I said, “Did I tell you that you couldn’t use both hands?”
And so he grabs a scoop with both hands and fills the jar.
“I still don’t understand what you are trying to tell me.”
I said, “What do you think your grade
-what are you trying to get out of your grade?
What are you looking to get?”
“75% or so.” He says.
I looked at the parents and I said,
“The problem is not that he is not succeeding;
In fact, the problem is he is succeeding and getting to his goal.”
The real problem is he has the wrong goal.
He is only trying to fill the glass three-quarters full;
and he is succeeding.
The problem is he is not trying to fill the glass.
He is not actually trying for 100%.
So I said if you use both hands, you are going to fill the jar.
I suggested to him he might if he set goal higher;
if he really put in all his effort using his whole self
as opposed to just some portion of himself
and the other portion of his time is spent playing video games
or a multitude of texting,
or messing with his friends, etc.
If we only try to get 75% then the best we can get is 75%.
In today’s gospel the Pharisees and Scribes came to Jesus
asking about the law and the 613 precepts.
They wanted these new disciples of Jesus to observe them.
Jesus said yes indeed
-not only do we have to do all of them;
we have to do them plus some more.
Jesus said not just 100%, he wants us to strive for 110%;
to go over and above the law.
He says, “I do not want you to just not take the Lord’s name in vain;
I do not want you to swear at all.
I do not want you to just not kill
and do want you to have anger in your heart.
If we do not strive for the higher goal,
we will never succeed it. Right?
Even if we try really hard, we may not make it all the time.
But there is one sure thing that if we do not have the goal
we will most definitely never going to reach the higher place.
What is important for us to understand is that we have the choice.
That is what today’s first reading is about.
He says you have a choice
“I set before you a choice to do good or evil; to choose life or death.
Choose good and the Lord will be there. ”
Sirach is confident the Lord will be there.
So I am.
There can be complex situations in life
but for the most part, it is actually not that complicated:
be nice or not nice;
be kind or not kind;
be forgiving or not forgiving.
We do not need a theology degree to figure this out.
Yes there are some complicated situations that need some more time.
For most of the things they are not complicated.
We know exactly what we are called to do.
We just do not choose to do it.
Now the question is why?
Often the reason is that we are not striving for that goal.
We have settled for a handful of Christianity.
We are just going to take a handful.
Yeah. That is it. 50% full.
Then we wonder why it is not working!
Because we are not putting it all in.
We are just making a handful of effort in our life.
We try to be a little bit kind.
That is not a bad thing.
It is better than not doing it at all
but we are never reaching the goal because we are not really trying.
We are not putting in all the effort and saying, “Look. It’s full!”
It can be full every single time but we have to want to choose it.
When we choose it, then we will succeed in our goal.
And the Lord says he is going to be with us at every part of the way.
The Lord gives us a choice of his friendship.
He offers us the help, the grace.
We call it grace in the Church-his friendship-his love.
He offers it to us all the time but most often we do not accept it.
We do our own thing. Because?
We are busy; our hand is doing something else.
We do our own thing.
We want our own things.
We would rather just not sort of bother.
Rarely are we all in.
So the choice is before us again:
To do good?
Or not to do good!
To be kind?
Or not to be kind?
To be gentle?
Or not gentle?
Or not forgiving?
We come to the table every Sunday
because we know that choice sometimes can be difficult
but most often it is not.
We just need to remind ourselves to choose it.
So today, I ask us to choose it once again
-to choose good over evil;
to choose life over death;
to choose Jesus Christ
-all in 110%;
We are going to commit, both hands,
the whole way down to fill up the jar of life.
Let’s commit 110%.