Ya’ll better get your lives in order. You think it’s hot now. Imagine how hell feels.
— Kristen MamaBear (@stmonicasbridge) June 16, 2015
That was actually stolen from my friend Renee on facebook. We are already in triple digit heat this summer. And as that at least feels like it comes earlier and earlier each year, the reality is, each year, we all come closer and closer to eternity.
The Gospel readings this week come from the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount. Yesterday, Jesus taught us how to distinguish ourselves from pagans by praying for those not only that we love, but those we do not. By extending love to all, not just those we already love.
Today, He tells us we need to living for the approval of God not man through instruction of how to give alms, pray and fast. If we are doing it for the warm and fuzzies it may give us or the compliments we get: we’re doing it wrong.
The Sermon on the Mount is more than just the Beatitudes, it gives us instruction for how to build the Kingdom. And how we get there.
For me, in the midst of this torrent of heat, I think not only of the fires of hell, but of how to avoid them. While I have no elderly neighbors in close proximity, I do try to remind others. I offer bottled waters to the workers working on the next building (and am thankful that they can turn my offer down, because their employer is good enough to provide for them!). After only 1 hour in the car in 100 degree heat with my kids (my AC is broken) even with ice water and some candy, I immediately took them the pool afterward. It seems like a normal parenting thing to do, but in that moment, it cooled their bodies enough to feel like charity. That wasn’t why I did it, I was meeting an immediate need. But it ended up being a lot more than that.
And still, I know I could do more. In a phone conversation with my mom last night, I quoted from Matthew when Jesus was being tempted by Satan, in the desert. When Satan tells Jesus to command the stones to turn into bread, Jesus’ response is perfect:
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” –Matthew 4:4
In quoting old Testament scripture (Dt 8:3), Jesus rebuts the Devil by telling him, just providing for one’s physical and material needs…is not enough. Simply making sure my children are well hydrated and cool, it’s not enough. It is immediate relief, but what does feed them? Being close to Jesus through the Word, the sacraments and by experiencing His love through the actions of others.
Jesus. It all comes back to Jesus. If we are neglecting that part of the equation, the sacraments and our actions of love become empty. Are we going to mass each week going through the motions, droning out the responses? Are we feeding the hungry food but not their souls and leave them still wanting? In an example I gave my mother last night, anyone can walk into a soup kitchen and get a meal. But if that soup kitchen is attached to a beautiful Cathedral? Well, what if someone wanders from the kitchen into the Cathedral and finds themselves confounded with the beauty and magnificence and stand in awe and suddenly find themselves on their knees. Is that such a terrible thing? What if someone who is down on their luck and comes in for a meal, finds himself in a Confessional receiving grace for the first time in years?
Similarly, why can’t we ask someone if we can pray for them in a situation. What’s the worst they can say? No? Well, it doesn’t stop us from praying for that person privately.
We don’t have to beat people over the head or tell them they are going to hell with vengeance in our voices. We can expose them to His love in both our actions and our words. We can pray, we can study scripture, we can receive the sacraments reverently and prayerfully to find ourselves in full communion with Him.
Exposure to the Son, prevents burning. And we are wise to expose ourselves to Him in every way possible in the heat of this summer.