September 3, 2012
From time to time I mention in my posts about the difficulty of getting spiritual direction these days. Many people sincerely seek a continuing improvement in their relationships with God and their neighbor yet don’t have access to a trustworthy guide. Fortunately, there is a good web site, Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction, that many will find very helpful.
Father John Bartunek is a regular contributor to the blog and last week he wrote an article titled Hard Hearted Hipocrasy. Based on Mark 7: 1-23 in which Jesus confronts the Pharisees with, among others, this statement: “For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”
The people of Israel could not follow both Jesus and the Pharisees; it became clearer by the day that Christ was demanding an undivided allegiance. His teachings were not optional addenda; he called for a total commitment. Such was Jesus then, and so he is now: the Lord, not the Consultant….
…Where our hearts are, there our treasure is, as our Lord says elsewhere in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 6:21). We can never be satisfied with merely exterior piety, and we can never consider ourselves superior to others just because our sins are less visible. The heart that loves is never satisfied with how much it can do for its beloved; if we find ourselves smug in our life of faith, like the Pharisees, chances are we’re running low on love….
…Most of all, however, He wants us to avoid the double life that the Pharisees are living. They are full of selfishness on the inside, even while they appear to be model Jews on the outside….
…How you despised hypocrisy! But Lord, I fall into it every day! I say I am your follower, and yet look at some of the things I say! The criticisms, the double entendres, the tacit condoning of degrading comments…. In so many ways, Lord, I am still so far from the integrity you want for me. Change me, Jesus; teach me to do your will…
“The heart that loves is never satisfied with how much it can do for its beloved…” We need to look this statement not only within the context of our relationship with Christ, but also our relationship with others. What particularly comes to mind, given the attacks on the institution of marriage that are escalating in our society, are the people who show up in front of the priest for marriage preparation but who are living together. Statistics show that within five years 49% of these couples will be divorced.
Why might that be? Many reasons are cited, but at the bottom of all the excuses: financial, testing for compatibility, convenience, etc. I believe that there is an inherent emotional immaturity and narcissism at work. Living together is using each other for one’s own benefit, not the love Father Bartunek describes. The love Father describes is inherent in all successful close relationships. Its absence is the cause of divorce and the cause of break-ups prior to marriage when couples live together. It’s the cause of failed friendships, too. In all of these cases, Christ is the missing Person, the one we have forgotten to fix our eyes on as we hold the hands of our friend/spouse.
If Jesus is the answer, then logically we must heed his words in that passage from Mark. And to be made clean, to “grow up” and abandon our narcissistic tendencies, to sincerely seek the good of our neighbor and to see him as a beloved child of God, meeting Jesus in Confession is the first step.
Perhaps we should ask ourselves: Am I truly acting out of a desire to live the two great Commandments, or am I all about show and secretly self-centered? Do I care more about what others think and/or gaining my advantage than about doing justice to my neighbor? Where is my treasure; where is my heart? What can I do for my beloved today – my Lord, my spouse, my friend, my children, my parents, the man beaten by robbers and left in the ditch?
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R. Now and forever!
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