Father Mark’s Pastoral Direction – The Bare Minimum


There are times when we try to get by with the bare minimum. Maybe we have scraped through an exam with the minimum of effort, or done a last-minute rush job to complete a work project. Many of us know what it’s like to do just enough around the house to keep it from descending into total chaos!

Perhaps unconsciously, we sometimes take the same approach to our relationships – only phoning a parent once in a blue moon to ‘check in,’ or visiting a friend only when we are reminded. It can be easy to slip into a pattern of acting out of a sense of duty rather than love.

Of course, our faith can go the same way.  There are times when we approach the Eucharist with a niggling feeling that something is not quite right? If so, Jesus has some strong words for us in today’s Gospel. If we believe that all we are expected to do is ‘follow the rules,’ we have missed something important. Jesus does not want us to merely follow the letter of the law. Where is the joy or the challenge in that? He tells us that our virtue must go deeper than simply doing the bare minimum. Not only must we not kill, we must not be angry with others. Not only must we not break a promise, we must be honest in all our dealings and in our speech. If we approach the altar without being on good terms with others, we are not in true communion with God.

Obeying the rules is the bare minimum. The Gospel is calling us to a more radical way of living.

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proposes standards that go beyond external behavior. He challenges our inner attitudes. When have we found that living out of inner conviction is more life-giving than keeping up appearances?

Jesus applies his teaching to feelings of anger and sexual desire. He suggests that if we do not keep an eye on our feelings and thoughts, we will not be able to control our actions. Perhaps we have experienced the truth of this. What has helped us to integrate our feelings so that we were able to live in right relationship with ourselves and others?

For Jesus, people with genuine authenticity do not need to swear an oath to be convincing. Their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ suffices. Let us recall people who had this kind of credibility for us. When have we found that our simple, direct and honest communication had a positive persuasive force?

Father Mark