Today’s second reading comes to us from the first letter of John. That is one of my favorite letters basically because it gives a basic and easy to understand description of how to live the Catholic faith and why.
We see in the reading that Jesus continues to intercede for us to the Father. What does that look like?
You remember in the passion narrative where Jesus prays for those who crucify him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
This is a good illustration of what Jesus does for us continually before the Father. Remember what I said last week, the Church’s prime ministry is the forgiveness of sins.
Now notice something again really basic. The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. What were his commandments? Well first we have the ten, but the ten are based on the two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.
As God loves us, so too are we to love God and neighbor. St. John calls us to live our faith in a way that models the way Christ lived his. We can take that two ways, we are called to live a holy life. So we need to live a life centered on pleasing Christ just as he lived a life centered on pleasing the Father. However, if we do we may displease certain people. Because he likewise displeased some of those around him.
Who were most displeased with him? Those who embraced the letter of the law over the spirit of the law.
Jesus never sinned and he pleased the father in his obedience to Him. However, many of the leaders at the time considered him a rebel, a sinner and a lawbreaker. Why? Because they defined holiness with following the law. Jesus defined holiness in pleasing the Father.
How do you please the father? By pleasing Jesus. How do you please Jesus? By loving God and neighbor. By seeking to do the right thing but also being merciful to those who need mercy. By seeking the interests of others and seeking to ensure that all we do pleases God in one way or other.
This is why the relationship with God is so important.
We deepen our relationship so that we understand what pleases God. We act in a way that pleases God and neighbor because that pleases God.
Some things are fairly obvious, but others are not.
We do not steal, we do not murder, we do not bear false witness, we do not commit adultery. Do we please Christ?
We may find ourselves in the name of the Catholic faith being burdened by another. Obviously, we need good boundaries. But not so good that we are fortresses of protection.
You know many people will tell you not to watch bad programming. However, should you watch programming that is not only considered immoral but is dishonest? Should you watch programming that is propaganda. Be wise enough to know when you are being indoctrinated by the media to think a certain way. This is not a new thing, Noam Chomsky railed against fake news sixty years ago. He called it manufacturing consent. The news putting out a specific viewpoint to convince you that it is correct. So that you will think a certain way and then vote a certain way. If you truly believe in democracy then as a service to your neighbor you need to understand what is propaganda and what is not and avoid propaganda like you would any other immoral material. Remember, bearing false witness is as much a violation of the commandments as murder. Propaganda is bearing false witness.
Make sure you understand your standard of good behavior. Remember, Jesus never sinned but he was not considered good by the leaders of the people. He was considered a rebel and a lawbreaker even though he never rebelled and he never broke any laws.
St. Paul tells us to live at a higher standard of law than the actual standard. That is because our focus is not on following the law but pleasing Christ and that is a higher standard than the law requires.
Holiness is found in pleasing Christ; it is not found in conforming to a standard of living. St. Paul called us to be as gentle as doves but as wise as serpents. Holiness requires us to model Jesus’ behavior and to grow in our understanding of what is true and what is not.
Jesus died for every single person on the face of the Earth even those who radically hate him and hate us. Jesus wants every person saved and he wants us to do our part to see that it is done. How is one not saved? By rejecting Christ our role is to get even our worst enemy to choose Christ. We open that door by encouraging people to pray.
Here is an interesting thing to reflect upon in light of issues in the news of recent years. Which would you decide is more important: protecting your property or protecting someone else’s soul? Which would please Jesus the most? Both are acceptable and good values, if you had to choose between one or the other which would you prioritize?
There is a story that comes out of a martial law regime, many years ago. I do not know if it is a legend or true. it could go either way but it serves as a good illustration. A sailor wearing an expensive watch was crossing the bridge between the Naval Base and the city. A common occurrence, which is true: a young boy grabbed the watch and ripped it off the sailor’s wrist and ran off with it. Immediately, the sailor yelled out, hey that kid stole my watch. However, it is the time of martial law. A soldier immediately shot the boy and killed him. Then walked over to the boy retrieved the watch and gave it to the sailor. Obviously, he was not to fond of the watch from that point on. Now go back to my question: If you had to choose between protecting your property or protecting someone’s soul, which would you choose? How will your answer affect your priorities and your decision to do what pleases God?
photo: unknown monks--no copyright as Subiaco Abbey notes on website link, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons