Jesus asks us to let our light shine before all nations, the light of our faith and our good deeds, he is calling us to be bold in our faith and not be hesitant. The Psalm tells us, “The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.”
We have been called to conversion, to examine our lives and to repent of our sins. Once in a while it is good to take a step back and see whether we actually know and understand what is sin and how we may be sinning.
Sin separates us from God. Sin occurs when we refuse to conform ourselves to the Will of God and His Commandments. Let us a take a good look at what is not sin. Some of the most frequent things that I hear offered as sin in the Confessional are “impatience”, “anger” and “doubt” as if these were serious sins.
Impatience is not a sin. We read in the Gospels where Jesus was occasionally impatient with his disciples. If Jesus was impatient, impatience can’t be a sin. Jesus became angry on occasion, but he did not sin. Anger by itself is not a sin. Sometimes we commit sins of violence or abuse out of impatience or anger, but, by themselves, anger and impatience are not sinful. Doubts are not sins. Doubts are natural. The Apostles revealed their doubts often, but Jesus didn’t condemn their doubts. He called on them to believe. We can have doubts, and we will work our way through them on our faith journey. Ultimately, like the Apostles, we are called to obedience and faithfulness. We can obey and still doubt. We “suck it up” and obey, despite our doubts.
People often ignore real sin and offer lesser behaviors as if they were sins. Let’s continue to examine sin and the Will of God. The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed God’s own words, (Jer 31:33)
“I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
When our hearts are aligned with God, with his Will for us, we desire what he wants.
We can speak of laws from two perspectives, laws that are “external” to us and laws that are “internal” to us. Those laws that are written on my heart are “internal” to me; I have “internalized” them. They are my “will”.
God doesn’t impose His Will. We are faced with a choice: To love God’s law or not. Repentance and conversion involve our submission to God’s Will. If we do not accept God’s Commandments, they remain external to us.
We can actually measure our own spiritual maturity according to the way we have accepted God’s Commandments. The Commandment that says, “You shall not kill” is one that I accept. It is written on my heart. By way of contrast, the traffic laws that regulate the speed limit on I-35 are not written on my heart. Recently I was pulled over by a motorcycle policeman for going too fast on a freeway. When he approached my car window he noticed I was wearing my Roman collar and he exclaimed, “Oh, no!” I told him, “Sir, I am guilty.” He responded, “I bet you were going to the hospital, right?” By pure coincidence I was on my way to visit a patient in a hospital to anoint them. He told, “Father, drive safely, please.” And he sent me on my way. Traffic laws are generally external to me.
Let’s go deeper examining spiritual maturity using the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are the Word of God, not the word of man. The Commandments were given by God, Himself to Moses after the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. God first wrote them on tablets of stone. (The monument in front of Claretian Hall is a representation of those tablets.)
The Sixth Commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery”. That one is also written on my heart.
Last year I shared with you my spiritual journey with the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal.” This commandment was not written on my heart until relatively recently. You may recall my homily “Stop Stealing Paperclips!” I had to teach myself the concept that I didn’t have a right to take even the smallest thing that was not mine, not even paperclips or pens or pencils, or even to use someone’s copy machine to make personal copies. If it is not mine, no matter how insignificant, it’s not mine. It took me some spiritual effort to work my way through that conversion and allow God to write the Seventh Commandment on my heart.
Likewise, I don’t have a right to copy your work if we are taking a test. That is cheating, and cheating is a form of stealing. When I later offer as mine the work I have copied from another, that is lying, and against the Eighth Commandment, “You Shall Not Bear False Witness”.
Conversion happens when we realize we have been far from God, and disobedient; and then, often in shame, we attempt to conform our lives to his Will.
Let’s examine another example with regard to the Third Commandment, “Keep holy the Sabbath”. the word “Sabbath” means the seventh day. We are to keep holy the seventh day. Jesus’ Resurrection was on the day after the Jewish Passover, on their seventh day called the Sabbath. Christians observe the Lord’s Day, Sunday, as our seventh day, because it is the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection.
I confess that I have had a difficult time with the Third Commandment and keeping the Lord’s Day holy. God said,
“Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you.”
Keep holy Sunday? All day? That means we should be dedicating the entire day to the Lord by resting, praying, worshiping, reading, being with family and friends, not working, and not causing others to work on our behalf. Merely going to Mass is not enough to keep holy the Sabbath. If I go shopping on Sunday, I am partially responsible for making others work for me. The Third Commandment is still not written on my heart if you see me at Walmart or HEB on a Sunday. I am struggling to plan ahead and get my shopping and errands done before Sunday. I am making progress in my conversion to God’s Will in this matter. I pray for God to help me to conform my life to His Will and to His Heart.
My life is really more peaceful when I keep the Seventh Day holy. How much Grace and Peace would increase in our community if everyone honored the Sabbath Day and kept it Holy!
We are all maturing spiritually when we honestly review our actions and how they conform to the Will of God. We sin when we knowingly break his Commandments and seek what “We want”, what “I” want, and ignore His Will.
Let’s see it from still another perspective, “Chaos” and “order”. As a loving Father, God wants order and peace for our lives, not chaos. Most chaos in the world is the result of not living The Ten Commandments faithfully. They are a gift from God to bring us order and peace. The Commandments separate us from the chaos of murder, stealing, adultery, lying, cheating and faithlessness. Spiritual maturity is the fruit of being faithful in the Ten Commandments. Peace awaits those who are faithful to God.
Jesus tells us today in the Gospel,
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
The Ten Commandments are our guide, and should be a regular part of our faith journey. We simply cannot be the “salt of the earth” without them. When we live them faithfully, loving God and our neighbor, we become the “light of the world.”
There are copies of the Ten Commandments at the rear of the Church. Please take one, and take God’s Commandments to prayer and meditation and see where you are in your own spiritual maturity.