Second Sunday after PentecostRomans 5:1-10
For the better part of 3 decades, I’ve worked in information technology. I’ve been a programmer, and I’ve been a network administrator. One simple idea that I learned early on and which has served me well in that time is this: garbage in, garbage out.
And that’s the core of what Jesus is saying here in this passage of the Sermon on the Mount. “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be”.
I’ve talked to you about the New Covenant versus the Old. One of the differences is that the Old Covenant was oriented towards behavior - a list of do’s and don’ts, whereas the New is oriented towards the heart and mind. The Old Covenant has the Ten Commandments, the New has the Beatitudes.
Our Lord said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. It’s not just giving intellectual assent to the truth that sets us free, it’s letting the truth become a part of who we are. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.
Earlier in the Sermon, Jesus says that we are the light of the world. Combining that with our current passage, we have to ask how can we be the light of the world if the eye is bad and our whole body is in darkness? The simple answer is, we can’t.
Being a Christian requires discipleship. As Paul tells us in the passage I just quoted, we must be transformed by the renewal of the mind. Bishop Sheen said, “Many souls fail to find God because they want a religion which will remake society without remaking themselves”.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German pastor, theologian, martyr, spy was asked in 1943 how it was possible for the Church to sit back and let Hitler seize absolute power. His firm answer: "It was the teaching of cheap grace."
He wrote, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."
I’d add one thing to that. Cheap grace is saying you’re Catholic but not accepting all the Church’s teaching. It is following the thought of our current, changeable culture rather than the Church’s teaching.
It may be following the culture’s thoughts on economics - either socialist or capitalist. Since 1891, there have been a number of Papal Encyclicals dealing with economics and related subjects, all of them showing that economics is ultimately applied ethics.
It may be following the culture’s thoughts on sexual matters. All of the issues have an answer in Church teaching, either with a direct biblical basis or doctrine developed, worked out, through the last 2000 years. And, again, the Church is explicit, but charitable, in its teaching.
There are, of course, other areas of social teaching with which one might find disagreement. But, let me ask you - do you think that the Holy Spirit hasn’t led the Church in considering every aspect of what our culture is trying to teach? And, choosing to follow the culture’s perspective rather than the Church’s, or following our own understanding rather than the Church’s - isn’t that Pride, the first deadly sin?
As our Catechism teaches, “Pride is the most dangerous passion and the mother of all sins. It was because of pride that Satan fell from God” And it was Pride that Satan used to tempt Eve - “Eat of the fruit and you will be like God”. Accepting the Church’s teaching is a virtuous act, one that is embodied in the words of the book of Proverbs - “Trust in the Lord with your whole heart, and lead not on your own understanding”. It allows us to say with the father of the deaf mute boy, “I believe Lord. Help my unbelief”.
But renewing the mind is more than just thinking right thoughts, conforming with the Church’s teaching. Renewing your mind helps in sharing the Gospel with others. As Peter says in his First Epistle, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. And, a little later, he writes, “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence”.
My brothers and sisters, we indeed are called to be a shining light of Christ’s love and Christ’s truth, spreading them to all the world. Not only a shining light, but the salt of the Earth. In our words, in our actions, we show forth his love, and, as salt, we preserve the earth from the evil which would overtake it.
So, what will it be.
Will you renew your mind? Will you be the light of the world, making a difference in this world? Will you tell forth the truth of Christ - in your words, in your actions, in your understanding? Will you be the Christian God wants you to be?
Or, will you be one who goes along to get along, believing, but not letting you faith make a big difference?
The choice is yours, but I suggest the former.
Avoid cheap grace. Be a disciple.