By Way of the Heart

To direct our attention away from false values toward that which is most important.

From the Pastor… During medieval times, everyone thought the world was flat. The Pope said that the world was flat. The king said the world was flat. Everyone believed the world was flat, and if you did not, you might be burned at the stake. Now, if you lived on the seashore, all you had to do was to look at the horizon to know that the world was round. So fishermen and sailors, and their wives and children, must have known instinctively that the world was round. But everyone told them that the world was flat. So that is why they were willing to accept it.

Every day we are told in about 1000 different ways the equivalent of the statement that the world is flat. Television commercials tell us we should all be absolutely thin; our leaders tell us we need to build more warheads for our own safety, and we should sell weapons for world peace. And everything around us says a good life must include nice houses and cars and computers and vacations and success and fame and fortune. Again and again we are told: these things are important. The world is flat.

The Scripture readings this weekend ask us to turn our back on such worldly temptations and listen to the truths we know in our heart of hearts. Today we are reminded to look within and recognize that the world is round. In the First Reading the Prophet Jeremiah did not want to accept what his heart was saying— he wanted to shut down the voice of God within. And his reasons for ignoring Yahweh were pretty good: “The Word of Yahweh has meant for me insults and derision all day long.” Unfortunately the selfish world does not want to hear what God has to say; there is an enormous rift between true and false values. But Jeremiah could not silence his God or suppress the fire burning within his heart. The internal truth of Yahweh was more powerful than the selfish world which tried to ignore him.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he encouraged his readers not to model themselves on the behavior of the world, but rather to let their behavior change, modeled by their new mind. This new mind yourself values the will of God over selfishness. In the Gospel, Christ called for the ultimate sacrifice, that is, the total giving of self to God. “Whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” He insists. This paradox focuses on the fact that we can seek selfishly to protect ourselves, or unselfishly to live God’s values, and risk persecution. Self-protection will destroy us. Self-giving will save us.

In calling us to discipleship, Jesus asks us to value life for Him over every other value. This is the most difficult of challenges. In one way He asks us to be prophets like Jeremiah. And we know from today’s reading that is not easy. As contemporary Jeremiah’s, we must condemn our world’s corruption. We must work against the self-destruction of the arms race, actively combat racism and sexism in our neighborhood and workplace, speak out against any global injustice, from human rights violations in Iraq, to the abduction of young African schoolgirls in Africa, to the protections of human life from the womb to the tomb. We must do what we can to bring the Word of God out of ourselves and into the world. Jesus asks us to respect ourselves, body and soul. When Paul said, “I beg you to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,” he meant we should treat our body-persons with dignity. This holds true on the most basic level of taking care of our bodies—eating well, not smoking or taking drugs, getting enough sleep. But it also means we must treat ourselves decently. We must do honest work. We must learn to love and accept love. We must not let the rat race of contemporary society overwhelm us. We must truly love ourselves.

Jesus asks us to resist temptation. Peter suggested that Christ must avoid the sufferings that His crucifixion will bring. And it is a fierce temptation; he knows even at this moment how severe His trial will be. But he repudiates Peter powerfully by naming his temptation as Satanic: the life of the spirit, the life that goes beyond this world, must be maintained.

In Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, he tells the story of an ordinary man, a man who has lived his life by society’s regulations and values, who is dying. As he comes closer and closer to his death, he finally has to ask himself, “what if my entire life, my entire conscious life, was not the real thing?” Today, we are asked to look within ourselves at the real thing. We are asked to look at what we know, in our heart of hearts, about life itself—that life is not about worldly success, it is about respect for others and compassion and forgiveness and love. We are asked to acknowledge this truth that we know, the way we might acknowledge what we have known all along—

Question for Reflection:  If life is not really about worldly success, what would be your next three steps to grow in a more intimate relationship with the Lord?  How would you go about doing these things?

With a loving and grateful heart,

Msgr. Marucci, Pastor

Comments

Msgr. Marucci  |  Gibbsboro, NJ  |  August 29, 2014  |  1:23 PM

I always like to ask myself at the end of each day..."Have I been my best self today?"


Kathy  |  United States  |  August 27, 2014  |  9:59 PM

Test Comment

Dear Msgr. Marucci,

I enjoyed your post very much.  How I would grow into a more intimate relationship with the Lord would be to consciously bring him into the events and circumstances of each day; to try to see Christ in the people that I meet and at the end of each day, to reflect on whether or not I lived the day as Christ would have wanted me to...to ask myself, whether I made Christ smile today.

Trying to accomplish those three things each day I think will really allow me to focus on growing in intimate relationship with Jesus.  


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