Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
Sirach 15: 15-20
1 Corinthians 2: 6-10
Matthew 5: 20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37
A mother was helping her son with his spelling assignment. They came across the words conscious and conscience. She asked him, “Do you know the difference between those two words?”
He said, “Sure, Mom. Conscious is when you are aware of something. And conscience is when you wish you weren’t.”
As followers of Jesus, and as people who are trying to grow as His disciples, we need to examine our consciences consciously and regularly. We look at God’s Ten Commandments to see how we are doing. We see where we have rejected God’s grace and sinned – and where we have cooperated with God’s grace and grown in virtue.
We examine our consciences, of course, as we prepare to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, before we go to Confession. But we should also examine our consciences each evening before we call it a day.
Part of this process is looking at what is outside of us – what I said, how I acted. But the other part is looking at what is going on inside of us: my thoughts, my desires, my attitudes. Why? Because so often what is going on inside of me strongly influences what happens outside of me.
Perhaps the battle within is even greater than the one without. It can be like looking at the ocean and only seeing the surface of the sea – the ripples and the waves – but not being aware of the powerful currents that are below.
Here is an example. A man considered himself to be a very good driver. He had never had a traffic ticket, so he was clean with the law. He had never been involved in an accident, so his insurance company recognized him as a driver deserving discounts. But was he a good driver? The answer is no: he was a lousy driver because his attitude was all wrong.
When this man got behind the wheel, he acted like he owned the whole road. He never yielded the right-of-way. Many times he didn’t use his directional signals. And often, on the freeway, he was a left-lane driver, preventing other people from passing. He would get impatient with other drivers and swear at them and even make gestures at them. He never thought twice about drinking and driving.
He considered himself to be a very good driver. But actually he was a terrible driver. His attitude was all wrong.
Jesus is teaching us in the Gospel today that to be His loyal followers involves not only what we do externally but also what goes on internally.
Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’” And then He adds: “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
We can break the commandments not only by our words and deeds but also by our thoughts and desires and attitudes.
Pornography is a big business in our world. It is against that Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Someone defined pornography as “an affair of the mind.” It is a big business, which indicates that lots and lots of people subscribe to it.
What leads people to indulge in pornography? Oftentimes it is because what is going on in their minds is not held in check. Rather, those desires are given free reign, with excuses like: “That commandment doesn’t apply to me.” “I’m not hurting anybody.” “I am autonomous over my own body.” “I make my own decisions about what is right for me.”
But Jesus is teaching us that we can sin not only by our words and deeds but also by our thoughts and desires and attitudes. Living as His disciple is certainly not always easy. But it is possible, with His grace.
Mike and Marcia met in college and their friendship clicked right from the start. They discovered that they grew up in neighboring towns. Although they went to different high schools, they both played in marching bands and would have distantly encountered each other at their football games.
And then they found out that their grandfathers worked for the same company and in the same building but had not spoken to each other in over thirty years. In the elevator they would talk with other people, but never to each another. And if it was just the two of them, they maintained their code of silence.
Eventually Mike and Marcia became engaged. One day on the elevator it was just the two grandfathers. One said, “Looks like the kids are getting pretty serious.” And the other replied, “Sure looks that way.”
Months later, at the wedding reception, the two grandfathers sat at the same table and spent the whole evening recounting the happy events of their earlier days, and had wiped out whatever it was inside that had kept them silent outside for all those years.
Marcia believes that it was a miracle of grace that God arranged through her love for Mike and Mike’s love for her. Two lives were changed and a friendship was reborn, all through God’s grace and the transforming power of love.
To live the Christian life well, we need to examine our consciences consciously and regularly. We need to look at our lives very carefully – externally and internally.
And here we find God’s mercy, here we find God’s grace to change our lives: enabling us to become even better disciples of Jesus, even better versions of ourselves, and even more grateful and generous stewards of God’s bountiful blessings – day by day, and through and through.