Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 22, 2017
By Father Thomas McCabe
I was about age 14 when I went to my first sleepover at my friend’s house. Before walking out the door my Dad put his hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said, “Son, you have a good head on your shoulders, use it.”
That night my friends and I were in a distant neighborhood walking the streets, looking for adventure. One of them had the idea of switching the political signs of one neighbor with the neighbor of the opposing party. We all laughed, but as the idea began forming into a plan I was stung by my Dad’s words and said something like, “No, this is too important for people. We shouldn’t do it.”
My friends were stunned at my reply since I was sometimes the instigator of practical jokes. “What do you mean? This is harmless.” I refused their badgering and with my heart pounding I turned my back on them and told them, “I am going back to the house.” Well, they followed, and we ended up talking about many things late into the night, but especially about politics and religion.
I remember one friend saying that his summer was a bummer because he was mainly working, even on weekends. Some of us agreed that weekends were made for family, friends and going to Church. He agreed and said he should go to church service more often. I thought, “Aren’t we commanded by God to go weekly?”
The topic turned to how to get to heaven, and soon my protestant friends turned to Eric and me (the only Catholics among these five other boys) and asked, “Why do Catholics believe in purgatory instead of going straight to heaven?” “What? Well, if that is what my parents believe,” I replied, “then that’s what I believe.”
The following day I went straight home and started reading the Bible. Genesis was confusing so I decided to turn to the Gospel of Matthew. Finally, the word of God was jumping off the page as I read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill…But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven….Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise, your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Cf. Mt. 5:17-26.
There it was! A description of my Catholic faith: The Commandments, the Communion of Saints, the collection plate, the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Mass, the Last Judgment and being released from a spiritual prison only after paying the last penny – PURGATORY.
I highly recommend that you read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5 – 7; a mere six pages that sums up much of our Catholic faith. We are called to be “great in the kingdom of God.”
God bless you,
Fr. Thomas McCabe