Sunday, October 01, 2006

Do unto others...

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

Our Gospel Lesson (Luke 6:31-36) opens with what could be called the basic rule for success in the Christian life. We might even call it the “Golden Rule” as indeed it was known by generations of Sunday School children, in the form of: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

As we contemplate these words, we should remember that this is not merely a lesson for kids. These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are His commandment to each of us regarding how we should live and deal with others at all times. As such, it is our obligation--if we are to live as true Christians--to engage in some deep soul-searching and an ongoing watchfulness over ourselves to determine how well, or even if at all, we are fulfilling this important commandment of Christ.

I hope that by this stage in your life with Christ you have discovered that it is our normal, yet entirely unnatural, tendency to go through life in kind of a whirlwind of external activity, something like that cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil. We tend to live our lives in a very outward manner, and seem to give so little time to interior contemplation and reflection on such things as how well we are keeping our Savior’s commandments. If we do not make the time for such reflection, among the many bad things that inevitably will happen to us is that we will only grow more and more sloppy in our dealings with others and will easily be able to ignore or justify just about any sort of mean or evil behavior toward them.

That’s not to imply that we are an insensitive people; far from it. We are all very sensitive when someone has neglected us, or slighted us, or done us some wrong, real or imagined. Our senses are very finely tuned in that direction. We just aren’t very good at sensing when we have neglected, slighted, or wronged others. God help the person who has not paid enough attention to our needs! That seems to us to be a nearly unforgivable wrong. But if we don’t have the time for someone else’s need, well, that’s not our fault; that person simply needs to grow up and not be such a baby about things.

One of the ways in which we often get ourselves in trouble is with our mouths. Now I know that nobody here at St. Barnabas ever gossips, right? None of us would ever dream of speaking against someone to another person, and we all wear our halos rather self-assuredly on that issue. However, we do like to talk about people; to share news about them with others, especially if it’s really juicy and for some strange reason makes us feel so much better for sharing it. If we are slightly envious of a certain person, or else look down upon them, or if they have given us some mild offense in the distant past, we find it so much easier to justify our loose tongues and relish the immensely satisfying feeling of righting that wrong over and over again at every opportunity.

Over time we may find our halos rusting a bit and our circle of friends shrinking, because frankly, they get tired of us running our mouth all the time and they don’t want to wind up as our next victim. We respond by saying that they are “cliquish” or a bunch of snobs, and we don’t need friends like that anyway. That Tasmanian Devil never stops spinning; spinning through life and spinning the truth. We seldom take the time to look deeply inside ourselves to see what it is that we are doing wrong and work to change that. It’s so much easier to blame others than to blame ourselves.

But whether we are the gossiper (as we all have been, at one time or another), or the one being gossiped about (ah, sweet justice!), our action needs to be the same in either case: we need to shut up, and begin forgiving and begin loving. We all need to slow down a bit in our lives and begin looking inward at our own souls. Our Lord has told us that the very sins we judge others for are the exact same ones that live in our souls as well. Do you believe this, or does our Lord not know what He is talking about? And if what He tells us is true, how vile is it that we judge others or talk about them over the same sins that we ourselves possess?

Our speech is only one indicator of what is going on inside of us. Very often the things we talk about reveal to everyone around us the true state of our souls. All of us need to turn inward and continue the cultivation of an interior life with God. We need to engage in reflection and repentance, which always go together. It is always reflection and repentance; never reflection and “Oh joy! I just discovered another new virtue within me that I didn’t know I had!” No, if you are engaged in a genuine interior life, you will soon become a frequent flyer at confessional airlines. If you never come to confession, or go only once or twice a year under compulsion, then you haven’t yet cultivated a healthy inner life. Sorry if you don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. If you habitually avoid confession, there is only one of two possible things happening inside of you. Either you are ignoring your sins and living completely on the outside, or else you are pathologically bound up with guilt over your lack of repentance and thus are allowing your sins to become infected and fester like untreated wounds. Either way, if you persist in this, you will die.

You’ve often heard me say that the Church is a spiritual hospital. A lot of us check in to that hospital, but refuse treatment, refuse to see the doctor. We all know that we are spiritually ill, but part of that illness leads us to think that we can either deal with it on our own, or else that we are doing the right thing by just feeling bad all the time. Neither of those is preferable, especially when we can begin healing with God’s help and work toward removing those awful wounds from our souls.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Ultimately the fulfillment of this commandment of our Lord comes about when we begin to see our own sins and realize that we are truly no better than anyone else. When we face the reality that we are in fact rather dreadful on the inside, and have as our only hope the forgiveness and mercy and healing of God, then we can begin to see that those around us are in the exact same condition and have the exact same hope.

Would we crush their hope by making them feel worse? Would we gossip about them, or avoid them, or deny them our forgiveness, friendship, and love? Or when we begin to see ourselves as sinners counting so much on the love of God and the love of others in the Church, can’t we see how important it is that we give whatever love we have to them in return? I am reminded of the words of my most favorite saint, the one whose spirit has touched me so deeply in my life, St. John the Theologian, who wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love”. Is this not the ultimate expression of the Golden Rule, to love one another as God loves us?

My brethren, let us all slow down a bit in life, look inside ourselves to begin the work of our repentance, and learn to love one another as God loves each of us. By this, we shall not only find our healing, but also become the truest and deepest of friends with one another in God’s kingdom forever!

+To the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

7 Comments:

At 10/01/2006 3:29 PM , Blogger trinitystar said...

Lovely writing! Unfortunately others are not aware of what they are doing. It is when one becomes aware of ones loose gossiping tongue. We then realise ... we then should always remember Do unto others as you would be done by. The tongue lives in a wet place ... hence the reason words slip out.
Perhaps my post written 20th September called Take A Moment is also quite apt to the Gospel Lesson.
Have a wonderful day!

 
At 10/01/2006 9:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

An uplifting pleasure as always Fr Regan (out of love).

Thanks for writing that, it would be nice to hear your thoughts on justification, but there is no rush.

 
At 10/02/2006 12:22 AM , Blogger E Rica said...

I put the quote up on my orthodox circle page "Little children, love one another." It seems sooo simple, doesn't it? Why is it that this is one of the biggest things humans struggle with?

I found that what you had to say about the two reasons why people don't go to confession is true.

Thanks for a great homily. I loved it.

 
At 10/02/2006 4:49 AM , Anonymous Bruce said...

Oh, The irony of you having this blog! Being out of town, I could have escaped hearing this homily. Lynn-Marie thought I would enjoy your homily (why---- I have no idea!) so I was still able to catch it. God (and my wife) must have wanted me to still take it in.

May God help me while being merciful to me on my repentance.

Bruce

 
At 10/02/2006 2:27 PM , Anonymous Kevin @ascent.squarespace.com said...

As I said when I hear it, excellent homily, Father! Much to hear and absorb.

 
At 10/03/2006 6:46 PM , Anonymous Trenna said...

It is compelling to me that St John wrote these words to the Church when he was an old man. He had walked with Christ, saw all of his works on the earth, watched Him suffer, die, and rise from the grave, experienced the Holy Spirit at pentecost, cared for the Holy Theotokos, possibly had already received the Revelation of God on Patmos, and THESE are some of his last fatherly words to the Church ....

 
At 10/14/2006 4:50 AM , Blogger DebD said...

Father,

Thank you for sharing your homilies. All I can say is "ouch".

I have been reading and enjoying your blog for a few months.

Deb

 

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