|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Recently a couple came to my office with their teenage son whose grades were slipping, and they were asking me to help.
Reluctantly I agreed to meet with them. The first conversation did not go well! Every response from the boy was a grunt of some form. “Hmmm, dunno; hmmm, maybe.” God bless parents! I was ready to quit after the first session, but I invited them back for a second.
This time I had a box of sand and a small jar, and I said, “I want you to take a handful of sand and fill the jar.” He grunted and poured a small handful into the jar, filling it half way. “But I said fill the jar.” Irritated, he grabbed as large a handful as he could and poured it into the jar. This time it was three-quarters full. “You still did not fill the jar!”
“I can’t!” he snapped. “I don’t get it. What you are trying to tell me?” He said, “I can’t fill it with just one hand. I need both hands.” I said, “Did I tell you that you couldn’t use both hands?” Then he scooped with both hands and filled the jar.
I asked, “What are you trying to get out of school? What grade are you looking to earn?” He said, “75% or so.”
I looked at all three and said, “The problem is not that he is not succeeding; in fact, he is succeeding and reaching his goal. The real problem is that he set the wrong goal. He is not actually trying for 100%.” After that meeting, he set a higher goal and succeeded in reaching it.
In the Gospel, the Pharisees and the Scribes come to Jesus asking about the law and the 613 precepts. They wanted Jesus’ disciples to observe them. Jesus said not only do we have to observe all of them, we also have to observe those plus some more. Not just 100%. Jesus wants us to strive for 110%. 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; I do not want you to have anger in your heart.”
If we do not strive for the higher goal, we will never achieve it. And even if we try really hard, we still may not make it all the time. But there is one sure thing: if we do not have the goal, we are most definitely never going to reach the higher place.
Often we settle for a handful of Christianity. 50% full is enough for us. Then we wonder why it is not working! We are just making a handful of effort in our life.
We are called to choose good over evil; to choose life over death; to choose Jesus Christ–all in with 110%. We are called to commit, both hands, the whole way, to fill the jar of life.