Count us among the many that sick derailed our week 🙋🏻♀️! This is last week’s reflection, but I have not attended mass yet this week, so we are counting it as “last call”:
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time: “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37
God calls us to follow him with our external self in the world, but also by who we are behind closed doors. Doing the right thing is not always confusing: do not cheat, do not lie, do not hurt, do not steal. But where our humanity gets us is in justification we do for ourselves: “I am a good person…. My heart means well…I didn’t murder anyone” but we may not being doing the exact right thing. Jesus calls you to follow him not just for the sake of following the rules, but for the opportunity that sanctification brings to find freedom.
The ability to justify was a part of our humanity granted to us through God. Yes, it can be used against us and when I first reflect on it, that is the part I have focused on. I use justification to make myself feel better, to help avoid the hard, and to forgive my missteps. And when I look more closely at what I am doing through my justification, it is seeking to feel better…. but not always be better. For those of us who are Catholic this can feel like another broken road, another failure, another rule I have denied and feel icky because of I have done wrong. However, if we truly look at the man speaking the words of today’s gospel there is another way of looking at justification. Jesus is calling us to stop justification because it won’t give the freedom, the comfort, the true emotion we seek. It will give temporary relief we grant ourselves that will not ultimately give us the freedom to have hope, to walk free and to live in true joy that choosing God’s way will grant.
This is where I like to remove my tendency to see God and Jesus as a task master who is passing out rules and instead, place myself with Jesus when he walked the earth. He went to those who were in need of healing and gave them freedom from their afflictions. Often we think of those who are blind or lame or sick and finding sight, being able to walk, and becoming well. But we know he also did it for those afflicted mentally and tormented spiritually by demons. If we think of a time that we were hurt or scared and came to a person who felt like home to us. Maybe it was a grandparent, or a friend, or a teacher or a parent or a sibling, we feel so broken and tired and lost – we want relief. And somehow they give it to us. By listening, by giving advice, by participating in a ritual that brings us comfort (for the Heppes it usually involves a take out of Chinese food) and we find comfort, the ability to step away from the problem and gain our footing and maybe an answer. Now take that experience and imagine it magnified purely by looking in Jesus eyes. Imagine that feeling from someone that brings you comfort or a ritual that makes you feel like you. That exact same relief falls over your whole being: mind, body, spirit through purely hearing Jesus words, feeling his eyes on you, and maybe the warmth of his knowing touch. We are removed from the story, we are human with ears that can lie to us, and we turn these gospels into scary letters of the law. When if we had been there when the words drifted to earth for the first time, they may have actually felt more like the water we desperately need for the thist developed in the confusion of life.
Over recent years I personally have allowed justification to be an excuse related to survival. My world that I partnered with God to make fell apart … therefore I don’t have to XYZ.. or I do get to XYZ and if I feel bad about whatever XYZ I find those folks who will tell me “its ok you do XYZ, you have been through so much”. Here is the funny thing, the so much kept coming in fact it still came by this past week. And yet my acts of justification rarely made me feel better did not make me feel more myself and did not bring an answer. Instead they gave me the ability to sit longer in my humanity. What I have learned is that our broken spirit does require us to sit in our humanity. And God knows it. In fact Jesus became human so he too could experience the tug we have to self soothe (Lent is coming and I can’t wait to explore that aspect of the story more). So if we do it, that is not really shocking to anyone, most importantly God. But if we then choose to leave it, rise above it, seek the strength and through His ability to not choose it anymore: God will rejoice and we will find incredible healing through stopping justification and choosing His way. And maybe we find that healing through broken rules so when we go to share the truth we have learned with others we can empathize with their rejection of wrongly perceived God and his rules. It is not about the rules and it is not about our ability o explain way we don’t need to follow them. Rather it is about the journey to a willing heart that wants to understand their purpose and find Him in their practice.
My shared resource for this week is a different one, but also a little harder: go to confession. Yes, I know it is not the same as an interesting podcast while on a walk or good book to curl up on the couch with, but it is a really important resources that is greatly misunderstood. My therapist is the one who helped me to see it best, specifically when I was full of justifications as to why I could not go: I had been hurt, I was drowning in motherhood and working, Danny was really sick, I was messing up but it was mostly because I was overwhelmed. I had about 99 really good excuses that were supported by some amazing justifications. She kindly listened and then said, I am not telling you to go so you can deal with having to stand up and say you were wrong, I am telling you to go to clear out the gunk so you can more clearly hear God’s words for you. He wants to help you in this season of 99 challenges. To have access to the words of our Father to help us, what a beautiful way to see this sacrament. And for an excellent story on justification and confession check out Leah Darrow’s talk here .
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!