Growing up, I can remember my parents trying to instill in me the ideals that would hopefully make a good man out of me later in life. For some reason or another, I can remember a lot of my dad’s words of wisdom. This is not to say that my mom didn’t have words of wisdom or that I didn’t listen to my mom. My dad is just…..louder. Some of his key phrases were, “Focus,” particularly with sports. He would say, “You are who you hang out with,” when I was getting in trouble and he was trying to get me to hang around kids that weren’t trouble makers. My dad would reinforce these types of phrases again and again to instill good practices in his kids. Most of it stuck.
When I heard these phrases again and again, sometimes the words would then begin to go in one ear and out the other. In our Gospel this weekend, we hear many popular phrases of our Lord that we have heard many times before. It is as if the Church is using the words of Christ over and over again in order for those words to “stick” and we can be good children of our heavenly Father. These Words of eternal life should never go in one ear and out the other, but they do. It’s vital to be aware that they do. It is because of our weakness and sinfulness that they sometimes do. Listen to the popular sayings of Jesus today: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” “Love your enemies.” And everyone’s favorite, “Stop judging and you will not be judged.”
If we are aware of our sinfulness and weakness and acknowledge the fact that these teachings of our Lord don’t always “stick,” then we can begin to also realize that these words are not ordinary words. They aren’t ordinary teachings. They are the teachings of God. And if they are the teachings of God, then we must force ourselves to listen attentively to them and live them out no matter how many times we hear them and no matter how many times these words have gone in one ear and out the other. We must pray for them to stick.
A word of caution though - be careful not to take the words of God and translate them into a human ideal, especially the saying of our Lord, “Do not judge and you shall not be judged.” All too often today people take this saying and a lot of other sayings of our Lord to be honest and use it in a manner that is not of God at all. People who do so use this saying in a manner that is popular with the mainstream today: that people can do or be whatever they choose and that it’s just fine; that we shouldn’t “judge” anyone for anything they do or say or become. This is not the context with which shaped the life of our Lord. We are called to love everyone, even our enemies - yes. But there are absolutely times when we need to be corrected. When Jesus told his Apostles that He must suffer and die for them and Peter then tells Him that they can’t let that happen. Jesus corrects Peter by saying, “Get behind me Satan.” Yes, a very strong correction. When Jesus comes into the Temple area and sees money changers taking up the places where the poor are supposed to pray, He certainly doesn’t think to Himself, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t judge those money changers.” Rather, He goes into the temple area, throws the tables aside, and kicks out the money changers. He corrects the money changers and Peter and because He loves them dearly and wants them to spend eternal life with Him.
These popular sayings of Jesus are popular for a reason: they are beautiful words to learn from that lead us to eternal life. But we must make sure that when we hear these words and listen to them, that we understand the context of them and the mission of Christ in order for these words of eternal life to truly “stick” and permit us to live authentic Catholic lives to be good children of the Father.
May the Lord give you His peace,