MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how we are numb to the sins we commit and the sins we see.  What does it mean to be faithful to our spouse, our friends, our God? Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read James 3:16-4:3.

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For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/23/2012The 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read James 3:16-4:3
How many of us would be surprised to open up the newspaper to read a story about how a man involved in adultery killed his lover’s husband?  Or, would we be surprised to learn that a former NFL running back was killed by his wife for the proceeds of an insurance policy, or to cover up the fact that she had robbed a bank through fraud?
Would we be surprised to see our children running through our schools with bigger and bigger gold chains?  Or, would we be surprised to see our children wear baggier and baggier pants?  Or, would we be surprised to hear about a woman who would leave her children in a car in the parking lot outside a casino with nothing to do for six hours because she wanted to buy her son a $160 pair of tennis shoes with the winnings she was hoping to get?  And would we be surprised if that woman said a small prayer that went something like this, “Lord, just let me win this next deal?”
 
None of this is surprising to us.  It is because we are well aware that the religion of our culture is to have bigger and more.  If it were not so, then would we have “SuperSize?”  And if we can get a 60 inch screen television for the price of a 37 inch screen television, wouldn’t we buy it–even if there were nowhere to put it in our home?  Why do we need to have four bedrooms for two people?
“You shall not covet,” says Moses.  He says, “You shall not covet your neighbors house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 19.18).  He says it for two reasons.
The first reason is that coveting and envy go hand in hand.  Coveting is wanting something that you don’t have.  Envy is the hatred of others who have what you don’t have that goes with wanting what you don’t have.  Envy goes to the heart of why we do things like kill each other.  What is a car-jacking but the natural result of envy in a society that sets the value of a car higher than the value of a human life?  
     Coveting and envy are natural outgrowths of the desire to be better than someone else.   What is “keeping up with the Joneses” but a material expression of not wanting anyone to have more than you?  It is a desire to be equal to those who have more or a desire to be better than someone else based upon how many material goods each of us can accumulate.
What is materialism but a blatant rejection of the idea that all people are given their worth by God and God alone?  Hear what St. James says,
What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.
The world’s wisdom is this: you are what you can buy.  Who you are is directly related to what you buy and how much you can buy.  When this happens that is when humanity becomes cheap.  We no longer look at people under this wisdom, based upon who they are, but look at them in terms of what they are.  This is directly against the will of the Lord.
It is Jesus himself who says, “Love your neighbor.”  He says, “If you have two cloaks, give to the one who has none.”  He says, “give to all who beg from you.”  Why would this be so?  It would be so because it is through us that God wants to take care of his creation.  God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.  His Son sends us to love the world as well.
The materialism that pervades our culture cheapens that life.  To try to talk with anyone about it is like taking them away from another god (with a small ‘g’).  The desire for more material wealth is so embedded in us because of our surrounding culture, it is as if the perceived right to material goods is a religious belief.  That brings us to the second reason that Moses tells not to covet.
     If we would not tolerate our spouse having sex with another person, then why would we think that God would have no problem with us doting over another god, way of thought or way of life that took us away from him?  Christianity has been said to be a “marriage of the soul” to Christ.  If that is the case, then why would we have a dalliance on the side with other worldly ways of thinking that direct our lives?
St. James says, “Adulterers!”  Ooh! Yuk!  There he goes again!  But think about it my friends, how often have we failed to change a life when we knew the words to say that would put Christ front and center in someone’s life?  How often have we let things slide when we knew that there was a better way, the way of Jesus Christ?  How many times have we put our desires to help ourselves front and center in our prayers?  How many times have we left behind the obedience to God?  How faithful have we been to our Truest Love?  Have we had a high level of fidelity?
    When I was a kid growing up, music was still played on vinyl disks called records.  Compact discs were not invented yet. .mp3’s were not even on our radar. What we now call “vinyl” was played on record players.  Amidst the snap, crackle and pop of the music, I would read the record covers that said, “High fidelity.”  What they were saying was that the sound quality of the music was so high it was almost like being in the audience at a concert (although, I have never once heard the Boston Pops continually play the same note over and over again at a place where the vinyl was nicked).
High fidelity meant that the sound was true to the original.  And it was a valiant attempt.  Even compact discs skip when there is some peanut butter on the bottom of the compact disc.  When they were young, my children tried the peanut butter on the CD experiment.  Even if it weren’t intentional, I know what I am talking about.  So, no matter how far we advance through technology, we still have skipping on the CD player. Now, we have .mp3’s which cut the sound off at the top and bottom and use physics to trick the mind into hearing the notes that really aren’t there.  To a trained ear, it is not nearly as rich as the vinyl we once thought was “all that.”  Nonetheless, the recording industry keeps trying to find a new medium through which we can reach high fidelity.
     For us, we keep trying to reach a high level of fidelity with God.  We seek to not be allured away from our beliefs by the culture.  And we skip. We fail.  But the reason Christ came was two fold: to forgive us when we fail and to make us more holy as he is holy.  He gives us Bible reading, prayer, Baptism and the Eucharist, the Confessional, worship on Sunday mornings and living what we proclaim during the week.  All of these things contribute to living a Christian life in the world.
The Lord our God wants us to be true to him and him alone.  He wants us to think about the world around us and see it for what it is.  He wants us to submit ourselves to him and be purified.  When we do, he will lift us up, even if we are still low fidelity.
God wants us to stop chasing after the religion of our culture because he loves his people.  If we were to heed the words of St. James, we would stop envying our neighbor.  We would start taking the motive to harm our neighbor away.  If we did that, then our neighbor would be loved.
 
But he doesn’t want us to feel like we have to do all this alone.  Yes, it might mean we will have to change our jobs because there is a conflict with being a Christian.  Yes, it might mean that we will have to do things that we never thought we would ever be doing.  Yes, it might mean that we will have to walk outside of our comfort zone.  But we are not alone on this journey.  “We are being carried by the Lord who has created us for the good works he has prepared beforehand for us to do,” as St. Paul says.
So, where do we go from here?  Well, when I was dating my wife and I reached the question, “Where do we go from here?” I realized that it was time to ask her to marry me.  If today, you realized that there are things in your life that you have compromised against your faith in Jesus Christ;  It may be the way you think of other people, it may be an obsession with material things, it may be the way you value life.  I want you to go confess them this week.  Pick up your cell phone and call your parish to make an appointment to go to Confession.
You will be forgiven friends!  In the name of Jesus Christ, you will be forgiven.
There may be those of you who do not have this moment.  You still may be asking, “Where do we go from here?”  In that case, how much time are you giving to teaching others how to love God so that they don’t get sucked into the values of the world?  
     I pray for you all every week, my friends.  I love you and I have the greatest desire for your souls.  So I invite you as St. James invited the congregations of the Decapolis,
7 Therefore, be subject to God, and resist the devil and he will flee from you, 8 come near to God and he will come near to you.
Amen? Amen.
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