In sporting activities and especially in the Olympics the heroics and sacrifice of the athletes is often marred by the use of drugs and many high profile cases of athletes caught using drugs caused several gold medals to be withdrawn. How did the officials catch the athletes who were using drugs? By random testing after the competition. The threat of testing helped many more athletes stay off the drugs. In the same way the threat of random audits of tax reports may provide incentive for many of us to be more honest on our tax forms. Most of us shiver at the word “audit” because we immediately think of the Revenue reviewing our tax returns. Audits are as necessary in daily life as they are in the business world. We need to take stock of our lives periodically to see how we are doing.
When it comes to the question of our stewardship before God there is no random audit. With God every life is audited. If random audits by the Revenue help us to stay honest how much more should the guaranteed audit by God on our lives help us to make good stewardship decisions. If we are all going to have God auditing our books, how should we prepare for that audit?
In our Gospel reading this Sunday Jesus goes straight to the heart of what constitutes good Christian living – love God and love your neighbour as yourself. This is the total and complete commitment of love that Jesus is talking about and wanting us to practice. The starting place is a right relationship with God. The only thing we need to do in order to have a right relationship with him, is to accept and return his love. How to do that will take a life time of learning. Anyone who wants it can have a right relationship with God this very day.
A second factor that Jesus considered is highly important. He said “You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself”. Jesus knew that it was impossible for any of us to have a right relationship with anyone until we first have a right relationship with ourselves. To say that is one thing, how to do it is something else. I am not suggesting that it is easy for any of us to truly love ourselves. Sometimes it is quite difficult, but it can be done. Basically two things are involved. First we must recognise and remember who we are, not just our names but our true identity. “I am a child of God”. Don’t ever forget that. The second thing is to act out our true identity. Since we are children of God we should try our best to live accordingly, of course we will not always succeed in that effort. We will fail at times but when that happens we can start again building a right relationship with himself or herself once more.
The third factor that Jesus considered important was having a right relationship with other people. Even as we love ourselves, we must also love others – all others. In order to live by this seemingly impossible commandment we need to understand that it does not require us to like everybody. This is not realistic In the Christian sense we can love people without liking them. This does now mean that we have to approve everyone’s conduct. To the contrary, if we love people we will strongly disapprove some conduct and will say so.
If we are all going to have God audit our books, our readings today show us some ways on how we should prepare for that audit. Fr John