31A – 5 Nov 2023

Living with Integrity

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey

MP3 media (7:30am)

MP3 media (10:30am)

Fr Richard Healey reflects on his experience at a family engagement celebration, and knowing the future husband for his niece and his family. He discusses the essence of Christianity, emphasising it’s not about rituals but responding to God’s love and grace. He highlights the teachings of Jesus and the importance of aligning one’s life with inner values. The speaker encourages listeners to be open to God’s work within them and invites them into a life of freedom and grace. The episode is a contemplation on the difference between religion and spirituality, focusing on integrity and personal growth.

Last night I went down to Nowra to celebrate the engagement of one of my nieces. The fourth of my nieces to get married. So it’s a wonderful thing. And I worked for five and a half years down in the parish, as a deacon and an assistant priest. And so I got to know Matt’s family very well. And Matt was an altar server at church. And so it was really lovely when Rachel and Matt met and fell in love. Oh – it’s Matt – I know his family, I know his background. I know that he’s got such a good heart and this desire to to serve God and and all of that. It’s a wonderful gift when you see someone where the inside and outside match, where there is this sense of integrity. And that’s what I think the Lord is inviting us into today. You know, so often we kind of imagine that the best thing that we can possibly do is just try harder, just do some more things, add some more things into our life.

(00:01:15) – We’re coming to the end of the year. Maybe you’re kind of thinking back onto the New Year’s resolutions that you made and kind of evaluating them, or maybe you forgot all about them in the middle of January, and you haven’t really even gone back to look at those things that you committed yourself to do. But so often we kind of think, well, I need to just be a better Christian. I need to do more things. I need to pray more often. I need to read the Bible more often. I need to be less distracted. And all of those things are good. But the problem with them is if the impulse comes from ourself, if the desire to do those things are about just my wanting to be better, then we’ve fallen into the trap of religion. And Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is a spirituality because religion is about the things that we do. It’s about all of the stuff that fills our lives, all of the different rituals and rules and regulations and things that we’re meant to do.

(00:02:20) – And we kind of feel compelled and this compulsion to do more of those things in order to become worthy. But we will never be worthy. We never need to be worthy because God loves us, and he takes the initiative in loving us and inviting us into life and all we ever do. The only thing that we will ever do in relation to God is respond. The only thing that we can do is to be open to God. I mean, even the ability to say yes, even that ability to be faithful to God, that’s already a gift of God, a gift of his grace, a gift of his goodness. This has often been said that the only thing that a Christian, or indeed any person, can ever do, the only originality that we can ever have, is in our sin. It’s the only time that we get to respond in, in anything that’s simply from us, because any goodness that we have already is a gift from God is already a response to God’s goodness and God’s grace.

(00:03:29) – And I think that that sense really begins to to help us understand this prism as Jesus turns now, not to address immediately the scribes and the Pharisees, but in this final one fifth block of teaching, chapter 23 to 25. In the Gospel of Matthew we are listening to Jesus teaching once again, the disciples and the larger group of people that are gathered around wanting to hear from the message of Jesus. This is all taking place in the last days of the life of Jesus. We’re in Holy Week, and so there is this intensity that we have in this final block of teaching as he’s kind of ramping up. All bets are off. He’s not worried about what people think. He will just continue to drive home the absolute necessity to find our life in God. And how often in religion have we experienced that sense of? It’s about the things and the ways that we project ourselves. Oh, that person is really good because I see them praying and they look so devout and it looks so holy.

(00:04:43) – And, you know, we get caught up so easily in that desire just to to make sure that everything that we project into the world, that there is a sense of that that looks good on ourselves and that is so missing this impulse of the Lord, because we’re invited more deeply into what happens underneath what happens in the depths of our being. Another place in that secret place that is deep within us. No one else is able to be privileged to see what’s happening in that place. I can hear you share about it, but as I look out over your faces today, I can’t tell what you’re thinking. I can’t tell how much you hate me right now, or how much you wished I would shut up or anything else around that. I can’t tell how bored you are. I can get some glimpse or some some insights into whether perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep last night, if you’re starting to drift off and to be distracted. But I can’t tell about your desire.

(00:05:50) – You know that there’s this intimacy of what’s happening in the depths of who we are that is known by ourselves, hopefully, and also by our dear God. And in that secret place, in that place, that’s where we can begin to experience this intimacy with God, this ability to experience this wonderful life that is possible for us. And it’s in that place that the Lord is inviting us to go. Not about wearing broader factories, not about wearing bright tassels, not about seeking particular titles. And so often the church is being distracted exactly in those places, as we’ve thought, that those things were important. You’ve got to call me father. You’ve got to call him and saying, you’ve got all of the different titles that we have, and you kind of think, did you actually read the Bible before you made up those titles, decided to to put those places of honour? And whenever I arrive at a function and people go, oh, father, you know, you can come and sit here and I’m like, no, like, that’s just against the whole principle of the Gospels.

(00:06:57) – Haven’t you read your Bibles? Haven’t you discovered this, this wonder that is there? Because Jesus wants us to live with his absolute authenticity, this life that we recognise and we remember that it’s not about me. It’s not about what I’ve achieved. It’s not about what I’ve done, but simply that the gift that I have is that I’ve said yes to God. I’ve allowed his love to be the one thing that matters. I’ve allowed his love to so fill me and so consumed my heart that that’s the thing that captures me, and that that’s where I am able to find my life and my freedom and my identity. Today, as we’re invited more deeply into this place of integrity, this place of humility, this place where I recognize that it’s not about me, but it is about him, and it is about his love, and it is about his grace and his desire to forgive, to set me free, to redeem me, to love me so deeply and so powerfully into life that I’m just so wanting to share that and to allow others to experience that as well.

(00:08:06) – And of course, naturally, the response to that is we want to pray more. We want to read the scriptures more, we want to be better people. But it’s about whether that’s an initial call, whether we think that that’s the thing that matters. And it’s about what I do with the initiatives that I take or whether it’s the initiative of God. And I simply respond out of that love and out of that desire. Today, as we continue to serve the Lord and to respond to his will, let’s just remember that deep call of God to invite us into that life of freedom and grace, and to allow God to love us in that place where in humility we’re able to respond and to let God do that work within us so that we can be indeed the people that we want to be.

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