Put to death therefore your members, which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5
We don’t speak much about idols today. But before you covet something, you turn it into an idol. The problem is not acknowledging natural goodness or beauty. The problem is that we want to possess it or them. It’s about our own gratification.
In today’s Second Reading, Paul – writing to the Corinthians – is urging the wisdom of the spiritually mature. It was not the wisdom of Paul’s age. 2000 years later, little has changed and the wisdom of the spiritually mature is surely not the wisdom of this age either.
The Christian Post is a nondenominational, Evangelical Christian newspaper based in Washington, D.C.. Launched initially as an online publication, the newspaper was founded in 2000 to deliver news, information, and commentaries relevant to Christians across denominational lines and to bring greater attention to activities of Christians and Christian groups in United States and around the world. One of the contributors is Thom Rainer. He wrote an article that comments on today’s readings in a practical way. Primarily targeted to pastors, it has relevance to married people as well. He lists the 7, provided as warning signs that lead someone away from their vocation:
- They begin neglecting their family.
- They have no system of accountability
- The relationship begins within the context of normal, working circumstances.
- They begin neglecting their time in prayer, daily Bible reading and attending Mass on a regular basis. This leads to the next series of more intimate steps which include:
- Two co-workers who begin to confide in one another on a deeper, and inappropriate level.
- He or she makes me feel good about myself.
- Two people begin meeting outside of normal circumstances that look like normal.
Jesuit Father John F. Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University. He provides us with some FURTHER ANALYSIS from his book, The Word Embodied: Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures:
Jesus promises to fulfill the law in a new way. And it is new, utterly at odds with the secular and religious rulers of this time. When I was teaching Morality and Ethics to high school sophomores and juniors, I would often get the question, “Father, how far is too far? How far can I go before it’s a “mortal sin?” That’s not the question. That’s not even the issue. It’s not about the location of the moral trip wire. It’s about the direction you’re pointed and you’re traveling. It’s about your intention. Jesus plumbs the heart of your intentions, what is unspoken.
Be a person of integrity. This means not being unrealistic about who we are and how we’re made. A man from a local bible study group recently said, “Look, I’m from Boston. And when it comes to spiritual difficulties, I am definitely NOT in the major leagues. I’m no Ted Williams so spiritually I’m not batting .413 on ANY of the issues mentioned in this Gospel. I struggle with them – A LOT!”
This reflects what Therese of Lisieux said in her book, The Story of a Soul when she wrote: “God is not offended by our temptations, so we should not be offended by our temptations.” But, if we’re in a spiritual battle, we need to engage some spiritual countermeasures:
- Work on just one virtue, and others will follow. An IHM Sister I know once said, “Improving on just ONE virtue is like picking up just ONE rosary bead off of a desk. A ll of the others will follow and rise up along with the first one.” So act on just ONE of the virtues, and others will be strengthened. (A little piece of spiritual wisdom originally from the Irish monks)
- Rather than criticize, ask questions of your Confessor, spouse, friend, Spiritual Guide, mentor, coach, therapist. they’ll let you know what they think.
- Unity and camaraderie was achieved by “Easy Company” in Band of Brothers. We, too, are in a war and sharing the fight with others and need to be looking out for our buddy in the spiritual foxhole. We also need to be relying on others to prayerfully intercede on our behalf, hold us accountable, support us in our struggles, celebrate our victories.
Some FINAL THOUGHTS from Fr. Kavanaugh:
It can be dangerous, mind-altering and life wrecking to read the Sermon on the Mount seriously. It can shake the ways you think. It can thwart our attempts to compromise our faith or set aside prideful, privileged parts of our lives that we shield from others and from the law of God. It is a harrowing trip down into the mines of our motivation and intentions.
A MESSAGE FOR TEENS:
Journeying through the gospels is no easy trip. It’s a dangerous, plummeting, careening journey, much like trying to deal with being a teen-ager. Any teen who talks, writes, or sings about the gospel or the Church of Christ in a way that is dismissive or bored and leaves you unchallenged just isn’t doing the work. If they did, they’d be scared, REALLY scared. Because for the first time in their life, they would find someone (Christ) who wants to – albeit gently but surely – pull off their masks and reveal the real truth inside. Any teenager who doesn’t go to church or, during their college years, leaves without having witnessed and experienced the radical-ness of the Mass and the revolutionary impact of the gospel was either asleep or was listening to “a sleeping minister of the Eucharist.” Go find a place and a church and a priest who won’t let you off the hook. Find an adult lay member of the church who will love you and challenge you.
You will fall short. You’ve seen your friends fall short already, some in HUGH ways by making absolutely tragic destructive decisions and choices. Guess what, we all fall short. But we all are STILL called to holiness, and therefore we must not exempt ourselves. The Sermon on the Mount is not there to cast you down into a helpless and hopeless guilt trip. It is an invitation to a holiness that you have, up to now, perhaps not seen or heard. It is an excavation into your deepest loves, seeing what you must and allowing God to finally give you your heart’s true desire.
Audio version of the homily is here: