Keeping it Simple and Keeping it Real

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

October 29th, 2017 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 22:32-40 NAB

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Meditation Reflection:

St. John tells us that “God is Love” (I John 4:8).  He actively loves you and I at every moment.  He created the world out of nothing to be a home for humankind and continues to hold all things in existence and guide them by His divine providence. He created each of our souls at the moment of our conception.  The Second Person of the Trinity even became man, suffered, and died for our Redemption after we sinned so we could become new creations by grace.  Even before creation however, He was Love.  In His very essence God is a union of three divine Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  His very nature is an eternal relationship of love.

Moreover, Genesis reveals that God’s love is so great He made humankind in His image to participate in His love. Thus the God who is love, created us to also be love. In the first creation account He created man and woman at the same time, that they too might be a union of persons, capable of love and creativity like God.

“God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply.” Genesis 1:27-28

In the second Genesis account God created man first but he felt alone and unfulfilled.  There was no suitable partner for him among all of God’s animals.  Why?  Aren’t dogs and cats adorable?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enjoy God-given reign over all of creation without having to share it with anyone? Adam had water front property, lush gardens, and plenty of food.  He had everything a single person could desire – power, pleasure, abundance, security, and was surrounded by affectionate pets.  Why was he unhappy?

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. Genesis 2:18

Made in the image of God, Adam could only find fulfillment through being a union of persons.  Together Adam and Eve could unite both body and soul.  They could know one another, choose one another, and love one another, both spiritually and physically.

In the Beginning, living in God’s image was simple and joy-filled.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden.  Their work was without toil and they rested each Sabbath to worship God and rejoice in gratitude.  As Pope Benedict XVI explains:

In the creation account the sabbath is depicted as the day when the human being, in the freedom of worship, participates in God’s freedom, in God’s rest, and thus in God’s peace.” (In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, 1990)

Things only get complicated after the Fall, that first dreadful sin.  God is a realist.  He made everything according to a rational order and taught Adam and Eve those laws so they might be safe and flourish.  In their moment of temptation however, they rebelled in pride, chasing the illusion that they could be the creators of reality rather than creatures already a part of reality.  Yet, the truth is always true.  God said their choice would bring death, the serpent said it wouldn’t, and Adam and Eve chose based on their senses – “it seemed good and looked delightful.”  They chose against God and they found He was right – death entered the world.

It’s easy to point the finger at their foolishness, but consider our own common teenage rebellions.  Despite the love and trustworthy guidance of good parents, how often do teens think to themselves, “I know more than mom and dad.  I’m going to do this my way and ignore their rules,” only to find themselves suffering the results their parents had warned them of?

When have you thought the same thing about God’s guidance?  God guides us through the natural law, Scriptures, and the Church.  Yet, we still struggle with the tempting thought that what we feel like doing is better than what we ought to do.  Again and again, we suffer when our feelings prove illusory and God’s guidance true.

People will often say, “The Church isn’t realistic.  It needs to get with the times.”  Abstinence for unmarried persons instead of birth control? Fantasy.  Truthfulness at work?  You’ll never get ahead.  Children instead of pets?  Maybe one or two, but beyond that will be misery.  Church every Sunday?  That’s excessive.  Resting on Sunday?  Who will get all the work done?

Yet, the truth remains the truth.  Our illusions do not change reality.  We chase where our impulses lead only to find ourselves depressed and unhappy.

Happiness is simple.  It means being a real realist. It means living as a human person not something else you or the culture imagines.  It may not be easy, but God gives us grace to live in His truth.

God’s laws only become complicated inasmuch as we make them complicated.  In my classroom I have a mini basketball and hoop for kids to play during passing time.  I begin the year with two rules: when the bell rings the ball gets put away, and no blood (I don’t want kids getting hurt and there’s a reason I’m a teacher and not a doctor or nurse).  Some classes get it and those are the only two rules that I ever need.  They have a little fun and our class begins on a positive note.  Others overcomplicate things.  They start fighting over the ball, becoming overly rough or competitive, launching it over people’s heads, or they keep trying to shoot the ball into its rightful place despite missing many times.  In consequence, they force me to make more rules to ensure that my basic two are met and what began as simple fun becomes a frustration.

Jesus teaches that God really only has two rules as well.  If we simply love God with our whole self – heart, mind, and soul, everything else falls into place.  Living in union with God we find our true selves and the source of all happiness.  From our free relationship of love with God, we then seek to love others, His image among us.  Through self-gift and loving relationship, we find self-fulfillment and deep joy because we are living in reality, feeding on real food and journeying toward our real end.

All the other rules are in response to the myriad of ways we violate the basic two.  If we loved God first then our neighbor, we would have the common sense to do the other things as well.  If I love God, I’m going to spend Sunday with Him.  If I love my neighbor, I’m not going to lie or cheat him, and if I see him in need I will want to help.

Developing Christian common sense may take time, depending on your past formation or experiences.  Jesus knows our brokenness, blindness, and weakness.  He came to be our Healer, the true Light to guide us, and the source of Strength to transform us.  Love has a mysterious and beautiful power to melt away sadness and hurt, and fill us with joy.  You might begin by needing a rule to go to Mass on Sunday, but once you experience the touch of Christ’s love, you will find it a gift instead.

Consider:

  • When have you experienced God’s love – through another person, in prayer, or at Mass?
  • When has God’s truth been a sure guide for you during a confusing time?
  • Which laws of God, either through Scripture or the Church, do you find most difficult to accept or to live out?
  • How has God’s grace enabled you to live virtuously or love at a level you couldn’t have imagined before?
  • How might you love God more?  What areas of your heart, mind, soul, or strength do you still withhold from him?  Is there a teaching of Christ you struggle to accept?  Is there someone you find difficult to give generously of your heart to? Do you spend Sunday with the Lord and family or use your strength for more work instead? Do you spend time thanking God and being in His presence, or do you love something else more?
  • Reflect on Mary’s perfect love exemplified by her simple Yes at every moment.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week give God more of your heart, mind, or strength.  Ask Him to increase your love for Him in each of these areas then do one concrete thing a day to act on that love.
  •               Ideas:
    • To love God more with your mind spend 5 more minutes a day with Scripture, listen to Christian podcasts or radio, learn about the faith at your parish or by reading a spiritual book.
    • To love God more with your heart, increase your affection for Him by making a gratitude list, praying a Psalm  (especially 23, 27, 119, or 139), meditating on the rosary, or attending a daily Mass.
    • To love God more with your strength, do something of service for someone in need.  Care for someone who is sick, help out a co-worker who is swamped, volunteer to help at your church by taking care of the building or grounds or by helping with the service as a greeter or usher.   Most importantly, resolve to avoid servile work on Sunday and instead play with your kids or go visit a friend.

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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