Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Lock is Only For Honest Men

Just this morning I locked myself out of my house this morning.  It's one of those moments when you feel so very silly and embarrassed.  It happens to all of us.  When it happens to us though, it seems so much more shameful.  I marched around the house looking for an open window.  Would you believe my kids actually listened to me when I told them to keep their windows locked?  You would think that I would be happy with that, and when I look back on it I was.. but this time it was frustrating.  I then went to the back garage door which we also hardly ever lock, but because of someone recently goofing around in our garage, we've started locking that too.  Guess what?   It was locked. 

I was walking back to my car when I remembered the garage door opener.  I pushed the button in the car and the door creaked it's way upward. Heaving a sigh of relief I walked in, pushing the button behind me to lower the door back down.  After it closed I went to open the door into the kitchen.  Guess what?  Yes, you guessed it.  It was locked.  It was locked with a slide bolt at the top.  I knew that it was kind of lose and thought, if I jar it nice and hard... it'll shake out of place.  So I turned the handle and gave it a nice, hefty, frustrated shoulder bump.   The door flew open inside.  I looked up and the brass bolt that was supposed to hold it shut had bent at a ninety degree angle.   Beware the frustrated shoulder of a three hundred pound man.

What does that story have to do with tomorrow's reading?  In the Gospel we see the parable of the men who built their houses, one on sand and the other on rock.  Both homes we wearied by a storm.  The one built on a rock solid foundation stood the test of the weather.  The one built on sand crumbled and fell.  Like the foundation, a good lock is supposed to hold the door shut.  One shouldn't be able to blow the door open with a shoulder, especially with as little effort as I put into it.  It should take a lot of effort to get into the house, that's what safety is all about. We want to feel safe.  We want the bad elements to stay outside and the good in.  Those things that go bump in the night.. we want to go bump far away from us.

I think sometimes our hearts and our minds are much like that.  There are so many bad influences out there.  Television is filled with so much angst, pornography, slack morals, and sensual lures that it can be almost too dangerous to watch.  Music is filled with messages that most people gloss over as the norm.  All of these things are trying to break in, trying to get into our hearts.  They want us to be influenced to enjoy them, to join in.  Our relationship with Christ is much like the lock on the door.  The stronger our relationship, the harder it is for these things to get inside.  If we have a weak lock, we are like the house with a weak foundation.   It doesn't take much effort to get inside, we then spend our time looking and hearing these things until they come right in.   They don't fight for it, they just nudge a little harder and it flies open, exposing the inside to all who come by.

If your foundation is rock solid though, if your rock is Christ himself, how can they get in?  Just like the house that weathered the storm, the lock will hold tight, keeping the door of your mind and heart from being opened by anyone but those who should be opening it.   That doesn't mean a blind obedience, it means a discerning heart.  We pick and choose those things which will make us better.  We stop looking at, listening, choosing, and participating in those things which erode away our foundation, which draw us farther and farther away from Christ.

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”

That's what I take from the first reading as well.   Just as Jesus words say in the gospel, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”   It's more than just hearing, or saying... it's living the Gospel.  It's making your life a beacon in a world of darkness.  It's making sure your foundation is rock solid.  That Rock is Jesus Christ himself.  That is the bed stone of our Church.  We should open our gates to let in those things which keep the faith.  We should have a firm purpose, indeed.   Locking the doors to any evil influence, and carefully and spiritually discerning what we should let in.

How powerful a reminder of this is the Saint of tomorrow's memorial.  Saint Francis Xavier was probably the greatest evangelist since Saint Paul himself.  It is credited to Francis to have been directly involved in the conversion of over fifty thousand souls, even an entire city at once.  He followed God's calling and went wherever he needed to help spread the Church, in the end giving his life in the pursuit of that faith.  That's what a rock solid faith looks like.   It gives itself.  It pours itself out.  It does whatever necessary to spread the faith in it's entirety, not some watered down version.  When we water it down... we erode the foundation... we weaken the lock.

As we continue our journey in advent toward Christmas, that's what we need to be asking ourselves.  Is our foundation solid?  Are our doors locked?  Are there things in our lives that are eroding that foundation?  Have I kept God at the center of my life? Or is something else creeping into his place?  Let us prepare our hearts like the temple that were created to be.  As we approach Christmas, let's dust out the corners, shake out the curtains, and sweep out the cob webs.  Let's close the door on those things which are trying to get in that have no place, no right to be there, and instead let Christ be reborn in our hearts.  Then we can truly proclaim with the Psalmist: "This gate is the LORD’s; the just shall enter it. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior."

His servant and yours,