I’m sure like me you’ve been struck by the protests that have taken place around the country in response to the senseless death of George Floyd.  Whether here in Vermont, in Washington D.C., Minneapolis or Portland, thousands of men and women have taken to the street seeking justice for the deceased and an end to racism in our nation.  I pray that these protests remain peaceful and bring about the necessary societal change that makes deaths like this and the need for such protests to be a thing of the past.

I have been pondering the appropriate response to all this apart from making it clear that racism is wrong and that violence begets violence. Praying about these events lead me to consider the words of our Lord: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors,” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” While these and many like them are well known, they are far from easy to live out perfectly. It just so happens that as we enter this week the Gospel passages will be coming from the Sermon on the Mount from St. Matthew’s Gospel.  We will hear the Beatitudes today and then progress through the rest of this rather unforgiving “Gospel within the Gospel” that demands of all followers of Jesus a way of living with and treating others that seems impossible to live out.  How can we be perfect?  How can we love our enemies? How can we turn the other cheek?  It seems to be that our Lord is demanding an everything-or-nothing approach to our dealing with others, including those we wish we didn’t have to deal with at all.  If I can’t live the Sermon out perfectly, should I just give up?

Well it just so happens in reading a passage from Romano Guardini’s spiritual classic, “The Lord,” I read the following: “…what the Sermon on the Mount demands is not everything or nothing, but a beginning and continuing, a rising again and plodding on after every fall. … We accept the Sermon on the Mount not as a fixed, inflexible decree to be carried out to the letter, but as a living challenge and activating force.”

So while I may not have perfectly rooted out all prejudice in my life, I pray that the events of our present day and the words of Jesus push me to strive day to day to be more like Jesus who came to save all people, of all races, creeds, cultures, because He loves them all.  I have a long way to go, but I will strive to be perfect knowing I may never achieve it in this life.  Pray for justice and peace for all God’s children.

On a less somber note, we returned to the public celebration of Masses this weekend, albeit with some restrictions.  It was a joy to have a congregation, even though smaller than usual.  I pray we keep opening the spigot so we can return to the full churches we all love to see and be part of in our Diocese.  If you were able to attend Mass this weekend, I pray it was as joyful for you as it was for me and, I think, all of our priests.

Stay well and God bless,

Msgr. John J. McDermott

Vicar General