Friday, May 20, 2016
The Irony of it All.
In the first reading today we see St. James continuing his exhortation on morality. He gives us this statement: But above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No,” that you may not incur condemnation. Some see this as a simple statement that means don't make promises you can't keep, and that's there in a small way, after all James was just writing previously about not making plans for tomorrow without realizing that it's only if God wills it that you do so. It's more than that though. It's not a lowering of our promises, as with most of the Gospel it isn't setting the bar even lower than the Law of Moses did, it's raising it. It all revolves around that ironic image of Jesus as the incarnation of Truth.
By virtue of our Baptism we are infused with the Holy Spirit who guides us to all truth. We are made in the image of the living God, even more so after He condescended to become man. That makes Jesus the image which we strive to emulate. When James says make your Yes, yes, and your no, no.. it means that every single word we speak must be taken as seriously as any oath. We as Christians are expected to speak Truth, to live Truth, making every action, every idle word count. No, this is not a leeway to never worry about keeping your word, or to never take anything you say seriously.. but rather a challenge to take every single yes or no we say as seriously as if God were saying them. When we break our word, when we lie, we sully that image... We are the temple of God, His Spirit has come to rest in us. Lying, speaking a non-Truth, is profaning that Temple.
This is not a new problem. While our society is on a rampage at the moment trying to redefine truth as fluid, ignoring reality itself to define everything from marriage to DNA as circumspect, even in the time of Moses they could not live out the reality of what God had planned for us. Jesus reminds the men asking him questions that it was not because God wanted it that way, but because of the hardness of our own hearts that concessions were made in the Dueteronomistic laws. It's funny though, these men sat in front of Jesus asking questions, and yet they did not want answers. Here they were questioning God himself but rather than seeking Truth, they were seeking to trap him. Herod had already put John to death for daring to question his marriage. Jesus answer was just as harsh for Herod as Johns had been, in that both Herod and his wife had rejected their spouses, divorced them, that they might enter into an incestuous relationship together.
With all of that in mind, what Jesus had to say about marriage is one of the most important things for us to remember in society today. The family is the building block of any society. Without it, society cannot continue. People have to come together and raise children or society itself will of course die out. Even more so, marriage is an image of the trinity itself. The Father (parent), the Son (child), and the Holy Spirit (the love between them.) For those of us called to live out the vocation of marriage, we are called to do so in emulation of God. We of course will always do so imperfectly. Man alone is incapable of living out the pure love of God, to be infinitely compassionate and merciful. That's why we need the Holy Spirit in our lives. Jesus quoted Genesis when he said that a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two shall become one. Two shall become one. Mathematically that's impossible right? 1+1=2. 1-1=0. The only way for two to become one is by adding a third. 3-2=1. Only when we add God to our relationship and make Him first can we ever hope to live out the Sacramental marriage.
One of my favorite sayings is "A person's heart should be so lost in God that anyone seeking a relationship with them must first find one with Him." Another saying I heard recently is "If Catholics lived out a sacramental marriage, the world would change." I think our challenge today is similar to that. "If Catholics lived out the truth, making their yes, yes and their no, no in all things, the world will change." Are you ready for that challenge? Just like 2000 years ago as Pilot and the Pharisees stood before Truth itself, we today encounter the same Divine Person in the Sacraments. When you prepare yourself to stand before Jesus in the Eucharist ask yourself, "Is there anything in my life that I am still holding on to because of the hardness of my own heart? Lord, help me let that go and cling only to you."
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."