Musing on Matt 5:27-30

You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. –Matthew 5:27-30

Musing on Personal Temptations from Mt 5:27-30

I know a man who drives a sports car. He loves it. He likes to drive it around the corners, and take the highways to work because he has more horsepower than other drivers. He feels invincible in his little roadster.

But, he also has a problem with the nerves in his arms. He had it before he got the car, but – although he likes to think that driving his car makes him happy – it actually makes the pain in his arms worse. Trying to handle his little roadster does him more harm than good at the end of the day, even though he will not admit it.

So is temptation and sin for many people. We like to think that we are invincible, that we can handle temptation – we like to think we have strong enough wills to master our desires and stop before crossing the threshold between temptation and sin.

But, truly, it does us more harm than good – like the man and his sports car.

For many of us, there is a particular sin (or multiple) that – for physical, familial, psychological, social, or political reasons – we, sadly, struggle with more so than others.

Jesus gives the example of a man who looks at a woman lustfully, because men – by their physical and physiological design – are attracted to a woman’s appearance. While God created us good, and those desires to be natural, it is when we dwell on them and with them that we lead ourselves into sin.

I would give the example of someone who grew up in a family (and society) where alcohol was not consumed temperately, but was abused, and its abuse had negative consequences. Alcohol is in and of itself a good thing. The Apostles drank wine at the Last Supper; Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle. But, like a hammer or a car, it is a tool – it can be used wisely, but it can also be abused.

Just as, for most people, driving a sports car isn’t a painful task, it is for the man mentioned above. Similarly, some people are not (greatly) tempted by a certain thing; while, for others, it is a very serious, personal temptation.

Continuing the example, for someone who struggles with a history of alcohol abuse, being around alcohol or people drinking – even moderately – is a temptation that could lead him into sin. While his friends might goad him, or perhaps encourage him to overcome his temptations and drink, it would be wiser if he didn’t.

If your right hand makes you stumble [sin], cut it off and throw it from you. Jesus would say that, no, you shouldn’t even surround yourself with things that could lead you into sin.

Oftentimes we try to convince ourselves, “No, I’m strong enough. I can resist.” If we do, it is only through God’s Grace. And, while we might resist it the first time, are we willing to risk it a second, third, or fourth time?

And, while we’re in the midst of trying to shake off our own personal temptations, we might forget that our friends could struggle with them also. Maybe we mean well when we encourage our friends to overcome their temptations and join us in something they’re reluctant to do, because they’ve struggled with it before (or believe they could). And, if even if we have strong wills and can resist, what if our friends aren’t as strong as we believe we are?

However, a personal relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not something I would want jeopardized because I surrounded myself, or my friends, with our greatest personal temptations.

Yes, we can overcome our own personal demons, temptations, etc. But, only through Christ’s Grace and Strength. Will God provide if we ask Him? Yes. But, if we are being greatly tempted, we might not consider asking at all.

So, perhaps it is better to do as our Savior advises us: If your right hand makes you stumble [sin], cut it off and throw it from you.

If there is a thing, an event, a person (or people) that is causing us to sin, we should avoid that thing/event/person as much as possible. And, if we are forced into contact with it, we should ask for God’s Strength, Grace, and Mercy; and then get away from it as soon as we can.

Let us pray that we surround ourselves with good people, places, and things, so that we can avoid those personal temptations as much as we can. Preserving and strengthening our relationship with God is the greatest good; but sadly, we might be tempted to break that amazing bond for very stupid reasons – if we did, we would be trading our Heavenly Inheritance for fool’s gold.

Yet, praised be God for His Boundless Love and Mercy!

Musing on Matt 5:14-16

A Musing on “The Light of the World”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5: 14-16

When I walk into a dark church, the first thing that catches my eye isn’t the Tabernacle, it’s the sanctuary candle. Most times it is the only thing that I can see, because the church is so dark.

The sanctuary candle’s presence reminds me that Christ is present – and that is all it needs to do. It does not serve any other function. It doesn’t need to smell nice, or look pretty. It’s not a decoration. It’s not practical. It is there, as a herald of Christ’s Presence in a church.

The sanctuary candle’s only purpose is to remain beside the Tabernacle, and remind us of God’s presence. And that is all.

My pastor told me to remember this idea of the sanctuary candle when I pray – that it does nothing except be with God. He said, that is what we are called to do in prayer, simply to be with God. (Or at least, in meditative prayer.)

As I meditated on this image of being like the sanctuary candle, and simply being with God, I noticed the sanctuary candle in the church and remembered the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world.”

Yes, we are. We are the light of the world – the ones who reveal Christ to others, by our ministry in the world – our serving others, teaching about the Faith, and so on. Yes, we are the Light of the World in that.

But, we are also the Light of the World in our prayer lives. Our purpose is to know, love, and serve God – but how can we accomplish that if we do not pray? If we do not talk to Him?

So, we are the Light of the World – that sanctuary candle that burns in the darkness of a church, that reminds all that Christ is present among us. We gain our strength, our confidence, our spiritual nourishment from remaining with God, as the candle does.

If we remain with God, He will enable our lights to be visible to others. Thus, prayer is all the more important in our lives of ministry. We must serve and teach others, as we have the responsibility to do. But, first we must pray – we must know the One Whom We Serve, in Whose Name we serve others.

So, as you and I go about our busy lives of work, ministry, play, rest, etc., we must be more than merely light in the world:

We must be the light that shines forth in the darkness of the world, because we bespeak the Presence of Christ within our minds and hearts – within our lives. Our very existence, like that of the sanctuary candle, should be to remind all that Christ is present within our world because He is in us and we are with Him.

I pray that, through our closeness with God, we continue to shine forth in the darkness, to give light before all men, so that they too may glorify God with us in prayer.

Musing on the Holy Father & His Successor

March 13 Update: Welcome to our new Holy Father, Pope Francis I!

He succeeds Pope Benedict XVI (and St. Peter) as Pope and Bishop of Rome!

Author’s Note: I realize that not all of you dear readers are Catholic, but the current situation with the Catholic Church’s Pope is a very interesting and bemusing one, even if you are not Catholic. So, with that being said, I hope you enjoy the post. (The following was written on Feb. 28, 2013, as Pope Benedict was resigning from the Papal office.)

A Musing on the Holy Father and His Successor

Today, as I write this, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is resigning the office of the Papacy – a move that is unprecedented in the modern era.

A few weeks ago, when the Holy Father announced his intention to resign, the faithful had many questions, as a pope’s resignation hasn’t been seen in 700 years or so.

“What do we call Pope Benedict once he resigns? Where will he live? What will he do? How are we supposed to address him, if we were to meet him?”

Pope Benedict has answered these questions, but there is one uncertaintly that has yet to be addressed (and cannot be addressed for some time):

Who will be the Pope’s successor, and what will the relationship be between the two popes?

The Pope’s successor will be elected, hopefully, before Easter by the conclave of cardinals. But, as mentioned above, the relationship between the Holy Father and the Pope emeritus is a relative unknown.

As I was thinking about this earlier today, I remembered a line from the movie The King’s Speech, which portrays Britain’s King George VI’s rise to the British throne after his brother, King Edward, abdicated. In the movie, King George (portrayed by Colin Firth) says:

“Every monarch in history has succeeded someone who is dead. Or just about to be. My predecessor’s not only alive, but very much so.”

Although Pope Benedict has resigned due to his failing health and “advanced age,” his successor will – similar to King George – take the papal throne (the Chair of St. Peter) while his predecessor still lives, God willing.

The Holy Father has pledged his obedience to whomever succeeds him, but what about the new Pope’s relationship with his still-living predecessor?

Will the new Holy Father reach out to our Pope Emeritus? Will he ask Benedict for advice? For counsel about the papacy?

There are probably many things a pope wishes he could have asked his predecessor about, but in most cases, his predecessor was dead. Odds are, the cardinal who will succeed the Holy Father already knows Pope Benedict. But, surely, there are things our new pope will want to ask the pope emeritus.

But, the best precedent I could find for this in the Scriptures was the relationship between Elijah and Elisha.

In 2 Kings 2, when Elijah is making his preparations before being swept up into Heaven, he asks Elisha three times to remain behind and allow him to leave. “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

The sons of the prophets who were (there) approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” –2 Kings 2: 3 & 5

Before Elijah leaves, he asks Elisha Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then, Elijah is taken up, and Elisha inherits Elijah’s spirit, which the people acknowledge.

Elisha shows his obedience to his master Elijah; he refuses to leave him and follows him until he is taken up by the chariot and the whirlwind.

Elijah, in return, shows his obedience to his successor, asking if there is anything Elisha will need from him before they part.

They acknowledge each other’s office and duties as a prophet of Israel – with Elisha knowing his place as the under-study (as it were) to his master and “father” Elijah, who in turn, recognizes that his work is completed and wants to help the new prophet in his duties. In essence, Elijah, by taking his leave of Elisha, acknowledges him as his successor.

While the situation between the new Holy Father and the pope emeritus will be different than that between Elijah and Elisha, they will share a mutual respect and obedience for one another.

Benedict has and will continue to acknowledge whomever succeeds him as the pope – the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter.

But, in turn, Benedict’s successor will show his loyalty, respect, and obedience to his predecessor, and will recognize that he succeeds not only Peter, but Benedict.

He should savor the time he can spend with his predecessor, as Elisha did with Elijah. The new Holy Father will know that, when God wills it, Benedict will be taken from this life.

But, our future pope must be still and treasure this time with his predecessor by following him and learning from him – taking up his mantle, as Elisha did for Elijah.

And, when he is elected, our new Holy Father will fill the office and seat of, not only Benedict, but every Pope who has preceded him – ultimately to Peter who was commissioned by Christ Himself.

So, I pray for our new Holy Father, that he will realize that his predecessors – and the lessons they have taught and will teach him – are precious because they ultimately connect him to Jesus Christ, the Head and Bridegroom of the Church.

For the mantle of Christ is the one every Pope must take up. He is the God-Made-Man Whom each of them must succeed, as the Head of the Church of Christ here on Earth.