They Deserve Salvation, not Sexualization
How many of us here want to keep the commandments? This is what the writer of Sirach asks today. In
fact, he says, “If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live.” This is the bright promise of the Law, and Sirach puts it quite simply. It is only ours to choose; and whichever we choose shall be given us.
That’s the good news!
However, Jesus also brings good news – His message is the Gospel. And today He is sharing that message in the Sermon on the Mount about the Law. He has come to fulfill the Law – to complete it. However, this completion of the Law is quite challenging, because it not only touches on the letter of the Law (which is grasped and known by the head) but also the spirit of that Law (which is grasped and known by the heart). In fact, this spirit of the Law is supposed to take hold of us. And that is not as easy of a choice – especially in our day and age of “choice” and freedom.
This is an extremely uncomfortable teaching, because while it is relatively easy for us to say that we haven’t killed anyone, we are more likely to have called someone uncharitable names (“Raqa,”loosely translated means, “you empty-headed moron”). The emboldening anonymity of online forums and the safety of our cars often allow us to say or do things that we’d never do or say to someone’s face. Jesus is calling us to charity of heart – which has a real expression in our everyday lives.
Maybe we have never engaged in the adulterous act of sleeping with another person’s spouse, but in a day when pornography is a simply thumb-swipe away, we are certainly easily able to look lustfully upon another person. What’s even worse, society is trying to tell us and our children that it is harmless and, in fact, an empowering thing for those caught up in it. We have only to watch the halftime show at the Super Bowl to see that played out. Pornography hurts men; it hurts women; and it degrades our society and the intimate bonds that are supposed to strengthen loving relationships. Jesus is calling us to chastity – which must play out in our daily choices.
The choice to follow Jesus is not a neutral one. It must have consequences. The consequence of keeping the commandments is life, according to God’s Word in the first reading. Jesus fulfills that Word because He is that Word. When we give ourselves to Christ as disciples, our hearts have to change along with our minds. Christian saints throughout history have lived these teachings and have died for them. Women held to chastity for the sake of Christ because they were brave and virtuous – not because they were “empowered” by some standard that made them a commodity. Men shunned immodest behavior and action because they believed what Jesus said here. But their conviction of faith is what made them men – their love, esteem, and care for women made them manly. This very attitude is too often under assault by a feeble society.
Following Christ is hard. Speaking against or at least shunning an overly lax and sexualized culture is not popular, and it will get me dismissed as a “prude.” However, how can we hear Jesus’ words today and think or behave otherwise? How many of us want to keep the commandments?
Our young people deserve better than cheap thrills and passing titillation. They deserve salvation; they deserve to live. Sirach teaches that the way to salvation is choosing God’s way; the way to life is Jesus Christ.
Friends, the hips don’t lie. They say all that we need to hear from our secularized culture. You and I are nothing but commodities to them – consumers of the latest flashy objects. How do we feel being reduced to our basest instincts and hormonal responses? How would you like, rather, to be seen for who you are – in all your messiness and God-given glory? This is exactly what Jesus is seeing when He addresses this teaching to you today. He doesn’t “harp” on anger, lust, adultery, murder, divorce, lying, and swearing because you are a horrible practitioner of these things. No. He talks about them, and He teaches us a new way, because He knows you and I are worth so much more than that.
You won’t get that from Pepsi, Coke, Apple, or Nike. They don’t want to offer you the choice. They want to appeal to your animal instincts and manipulate you at the lowest level of who you are. But we should know better, because we have received God’s wisdom. “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” That is the greatest endorsement for the human spirit that I have ever heard.