“A genuinely good heart is a heart that is open and alight with understanding. It listens to the sorrows of the world. Our society is wrong to think that happiness depends on fulfilling one's own wants and desires. That is why our society is so miserable...” (Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Into the Heart of Life, Snow Lion: 2011, Chapter 9 ‘Practicing the good heart’)
Sunday, February 16, 2014
The opening prayer today acknowledges God as the strength in whom you and I place our trust. Only a person who is blindly proud and self-absorbed fails to recognize our natural human weakness which prevents him or her from doing anything good without the grace of God.
The first reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) depicts Moses speaking to the people about "the commandments of the Lord" and about choices: 1) that of obeying, loving and walking in God's ways, or 2) that of turning our heart away from God, of not listening to God, and of being led astray and of serving other "gods". Moses uses three phrases to describe the option of choosing to live: 1) loving God; 2) really listening to God, because that is the true meaning of the word "obey"; and 3) holding fast to God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta often referred to this as "cleaving to God".
In the Epistle to the Christians of Corinth (3:1-9) Saint Paul explains what all of this means in our daily life. It means that we need to work together in peace, as much as we are able. We cannot do this if we are jealous of one another, nor if we are constantly quarreling with each other. Each of us must do what we have to do according to how God calls us. We are to have a common purpose in doing the work of God. We are servants of God, working together. And "only God...gives the increase", says Paul.
In the Gospel according to Saint Matthew (5:21-37) Jesus leads us to a deeper understanding of the "commandments". In the Hebrew text "commandments" are translated as "words" of God. Jesus says that God's word to us not to murder anyone also means not refusing to forgive your sister or brother in Christ, nor refusing to be reconciled with her or him. He also says that inappropriate lusting for someone in your heart is no less harmful and disrespectful than an inappropriate sexual action with that person. Jesus says that in all our relationships with each other we are to be singleminded. "Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'. In other words, we need to be humble enough and wise enough to realize that Jesus is the Lord of our life. Jesus told us: "Without me, you can do nothing."
These scriptures help us to understand that God's wisdom is God's plan for creation. Jesus Christ has come to our world to raise us and all creation from death and sin, and to bring us to life with him. Our human wisdom leads us to know the plan of God and live in harmony with it. Our human laws, civil and religious, are our attempts to match human wisdom with the wisdom of God, so that God's plan may be a reality in our actual lives.