Frame of Reverence
#FrameofReverence is the podcast for February 16, 2020. What do a list of laws in the light of Jesus have in common? They say more about how we think than do. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew5 #YouHaveHeardItSaid #SermonOnTheMount #Love #LoveGod #LoveNeighbor
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/14/2020 The 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 5:17-48.
A priest stood before his parish one Sunday and said, “I have good news and bad news about our Stewardship Campaign to build the new church. The Good News is that God has given us enough money to build the new church.” To which, the parish all applauded. As he turned to head back to the presiders chair, a person called out, “The bad news, Father?” He replied, “Oh, yeah, the bad news is that it is all in your bank accounts.”
When [my] Bishop paid a visit to Munster, Indiana when I was the priest at the Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, we were called to the hospital to anoint someone before their death, just like the Apostles anointed people with oil in Mark 4.13. When I go to the hospital, I usually ask the nurses how they are and if I can give them God’s blessing. The young nurse, who had been a nurse only 30 days, said yes. As I was blessing her another nurse blurted out, “I have been here eleven years and no one has blessed me!” The Holy Spirit put the words in my mouth as I replied, “The storehouses of heaven do not run dry of blessings.”
When I was a child, the man listed as my father on my birth certificate played hardly any part in my life. There was disappointment after disappointment. He never went to my games, my concerts, my award ceremonies at school. I came to be very angry at him. I was angry at him when he died and was asked to give the homily at his funeral. A man who neglected me and mistreated my mother, I was asked by my siblings to give the homily at that man’s funeral.
In asking my aunt and my mother about his life, his early life, I learned some things that changed my thinking about the man who was listed as my dad on my birth certificate. He was the first generation child who grew up in a household that only spoke Polish. Then, when he was ready to go to school, he was sent to an all English speaking school. On top of that hardship, he was held accountable for his grades in the harshest of ways. Further, my grandfather, a hard man, was overt in declaring that my dad’s brother, my Uncle Ray, was his favorite son of the two boys. Eddy, my dad, was treated with harsh judgment. Ray, my uncle, was treated with favor, many times when he didn’t deserve it.
How could I be angry at a man who knew such rejection and hardship since his childhood? How could I hold accountable a man who was treated so badly and I myself, a sinner and hypocrite, would think I was better than him?
What do these three stories have in common? They all have in common the sovereignty of a loving God. They all have to do with the fulfillment and completion of the Law through the coming of Jesus. They all have to do with what happens to our thinking in our Baptism as we become a part of Jesus Christ.
In the first story, if God is truly sovereign, then we don’t even own our money. The logic would be that if we had not been given life, we would not be able to earn. God gives life. God gives blessing upon blessing. God is the one who actually owns everything, made everything, and has the right to tell us what to do with what he owns, made, and sustains. It is the logical outcome of when we hear, “I, the Lord your God, am one. You shall have no other gods before me.” If the Lord is God, then we are not.
This would mean that when we are angry at a human being, we are angry at God’s creation. When we lust after someone else, we are lusting after God’s precious human being created in his image and likeness. The problem is when “we decide”. What I mean is that it is the first commandment that is broken in original sin. Adam and Eve decided that they knew better than God. Enter the Law and the Prophets.
Look at these laws that Jesus lists. Each of them deals with the behavior, the actions, not the motivating factors that lead to the behaviors: do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not divorce; do not swear falsely; do not take your retribution beyond an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; hate your enemy. Each of these are about the act. Yet, we do not usually kill without some form of anger. We do not usually commit adultery without lusting first. We do not usually divorce without contempt for our spouse. We do not usually swear falsely unless we are skewed to speak in our own interest. We do not usually take more in retribution unless we wish to degrade another human being to put ourselves on top. We do not withhold money from God unless we think we have a better handle on our own situation. We do not think the storehouses of heaven do not have enough blessings for us unless we think God is limited in his ability to bless us. We do not forgive because we think we know what justice really is.
We, we, we; that is the focus of all these things. All of these laws are about limiting the behavior. Yet, when Jesus comes, he says that keeping the Law is not the point. The point is to keep the first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me, including yourself. The point is to have the heart of God within us. We know this is the point of these laws because God himself comes to tell us. He, who is “God with us” and “God saves,” he comes to let us know that the Law and Prophets are not changed. He comes to tell us that the God of the Old Testament is not different from the God of the New Testament. God did not come to give some people status over other people so that everyone else could be damned to hell.
God, the Father in heaven, has been the same forever. He loves his creation, even in its sin. He loves humanity, even in its sin. So, what makes us think we have the right to kill his humanity, lust after his image and likeness, discard another human being, lie to each other or condone lying from anyone, or exact justice from someone that does not lead to their restoration and ours.
The overall message of the Lord is that it is not the behavior that needs changing. It is the heart that needs changing. Simply put, is God and loving God our first priority? If he is then there are some hard things that have to follow.
The brother or sister-in-law you cannot stand at Thanksgiving because of their political beliefs, you have to love them. Listen, I have one. OK, a couple. Oh, all right, a few! But what do we do with them? Do we cast them away because they don’t know how to interact with other people? Should I have disgarded my father and refused to preach the Gospel at his funeral because he did me wrong and I had the right? Whose child is and was he in death?
Here is another hard one: if someone is our enemy, let’s say a person who took our job away. Because of them, I lost my job or we lost our jobs because they could provide cheaper labor. Is the answer to hate them for feeding their families? If they showed up at our front door hungry after losing the same job to someone else who was cheaper, do we laugh at them? Do we say, “Well, you got what you deserved”?
How about this, is it ok to look at porn when we realize that the person we are having delusions over is someone’s son or daughter? Would we want our son or daughter to be exploited to be used as an object and discarded as a dixie cup when the lust filled perp was done with their fantasy? Is looking at a person in porn any different than thinking that an unborn child is an object of inconvenience or a trigger of ptsd?
I can hear someone [in the back] saying, “Dude! Father has gone from preaching to meddling, today!”
The point is our frame of reverence. I did not say, “Frame of reference.” I said, “frame of reverence.” Jesus Christ, who is the Lord, comes and interprets for us the Law. He is showing us that we must have a reverence for God first. Then we must have a reverence for his creations, even those we do not think deserve it, those who we would be tempted to exploit, and especially those who do not think they deserve good things.
This frame of reverence reminds us that even what we have is not our own. The frame of reverence reminds us that people are not ours to treat as playthings of our angry, lustful, contemptable, or self-serving imaginations. Our frame of reverence sees all life as worthy of respect because everyone carries with them the face of Christ. God is the one who sustains that life. God is loving that person.
Look, even the idea that if we are good we get blessings and if we are bad we don’t is blown up by Jesus here. God doesn’t play like that. God doesn’t play. God loves. He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good because we all need sunlight. He makes his rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous because we all need water. So, who are the evil people here? Who are those worthy of being shunned? Who are those to whom we can look and say, “We are better than them?” We have met the enemy and he is us.
All of the behaviors our Lord attacks are acceptable to us, if we operate in a reality of scarcity. Is God a god of scarcity? Or, is he a God of abundance? Is God a god of winners and losers or is he a god of mercy and compassion? In fact, the perspective we are to assume, if we are to be “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect” is one of love. Love patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful. It is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things….Love never ends…[for] when I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish ways….So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; the greatest of these is love.”
If we are to love God, then we are to love no other. If we are to love our neighbor, then we are to love all and love them without using them for our ends.
To have our righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees is to have a simplicity and purity of heart that seeks to love God and neighbor in all of their goodness from their createdness. If we are to have that perspective, then a person who makes us angry is not a person condemned, but a person who needs our love. If we are to have the perspective that a person is very attractive to us, then their interests, not our lust, should be our focus. If we are facing divorce or hardship in our marriage, being right is not the focus, but getting it right for all in the family should be the focus. If we are put to the test, then our word should stand as good as gold.
In short, brethren, if we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, then we are to live life with a frame of reverence that guides our devotion, our thinking, our beliefs, and then our behavior. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian