St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

The Message of Jesus for the Human Heart

In the Gospel of today Jesus points out a problem very common among Christians. It is the dialectic, the apparent opposition, between legal observance and true worship. Jesus is not saying that we have not to observe the external law and liturgical rules. But that observance is not the true and complete justice he wants.

Jesus says that justice is something that has to do with our daily life. When he talks about what can defile a person, he mentions things that come from the heart: "evil intentions, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly". These things are real. He says that because of those things, even if the lips of his people praise him, their hearts are far from him, and their worship is in vain.

Jesus invites us to an integrity of life. Jesus wants in our life a unity between our lips' praise and our heart's desires. Our whole life, worship and work, studies and friendship, has to be a hymn in his honour.

Today I would like to raise your hearts to something great, to great and divine things. If I am not able to do it with my words, I hope the Holy Spirit will help you.

God doesn't want to enslave you to liturgical rules or legal observances, proper of Pharisees. God doesn't want to close the horizon of your soul in just a life of good practices, good works, even prayers, and a series of "don't do this, don't do that". Those things are fine, but God didn't make us for that. Those things are fine, but they are only a means to achieve something higher.

Most people do wrong because they take some creature, such as pleasure or money, as the goal of their lives. Because of money, for example, they are capable of doing things that are against their conscience. They never enjoy real peace, because their heart cannot be filled with money, and they may never enjoy the presence of God.

But some people, and it happens especially to Christians, even orthodox, do wrong in another way, like the Pharisees. They put their happiness in the fact that they follow the commandments. Their goal in life is to feel this pleasure: "I am a good man". "I'm orthodox". Do you remember the other parable of Jesus? Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other (Lk 18:10).

The Pharisee thought he was saved because he was good. He didn't feel the need of God. He thought that because of his works, he was already saved. He didn't desire any more. He was satisfied in something limited: in himself. He was satisfied in his works, in his limited works. His heart was little, but was full, full of himself. No room for God. No room for true happiness.

Today the message of Jesus is this: our heart has an infinite desire, and God wants to fulfill it. God wants to give us happiness, but not in the possession of something created, but in the possession of God himself. God doesn't want you to be happy with the happiness of a man, but with his own happiness. He loves you so much, that he wants to enter in the most intimate communion possible with each one of us. That's why at the end of times, those who are saved will hear these words from the mouth of God: "Well done, faithful servant, enter the joy of your Lord".

Let's go back to our point, but first an example. Imagine that you want to marry a person and you are free to do it. You just get organized, find a job, buy a house, and marry that person. If there is any obstacle, you try to overcome it. If there is someone who wants to steal your love, you fight, you fight for your love. You do all these things willingly, because this is what you want. A Christian is also a person who does what he desires, in the freedom of the children of God.

We have to do good works, including our worship, because in that way we get ready to see him and live with him forever. Good works are means for something much better. We have to say no to certain creatures, but because they are not God, we are not made for that. We have to say no to sin, because sin is an obstacle to possess God, and we don't want to lose him. That's why the only commandment is love. That's why a Christian is free. Because he is a man in love with God, and all the good he does and all the sin he avoids is because he wants to reach God as soon as possible, and he wants nothing that can prevent him of reaching God.

God loved us first in that way. He became flesh to make our way to him easier. There were many obstacles for our union with him: devil, sin and death. He fought against them, and he overcame them by dying on a Cross for us. He came to seek us. Now it is our turn to love him back.

It is not only that we want to be happy, it is God who wants us to be happy like he is. He offers himself as our own happiness. [Our happiness is not in pleasure, nor money, not even in our own good works, but in the possession of God himself]. May God give us the wisdom to understand this, and to choose always in our lives the path of the love of God, loving God above all things. May all we do: worship, work, studies, fun, relationship, be always a hymn in his honour, a preparation to meet him in Heaven. Fr. Andrew