Time to get down, to the heart of the matter…

Last night, Jim and I attended mass at St. Phillips Catholic Church. Father Tom, the priest at St. Phillips, did my brother’s funeral and so we wanted to visit again, to thank him.

The sermon series the was on Getting Back to the Fundamentals. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “I came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”

Father Tom talked about the Super Bowl and all the media hype surrounding it. He talked about the multi million dollar players, the multi million dollar half time show, the multi million dollar commercials. But, he said, “this is the same game that kids play in high school. In fact, these are same fundamentals they learn in PeeWee League.”

The same is true for us as Christians. We know the fundamentals. But sometimes, they get lost in a sea of hype. The mega churches, the overproduced worship services…the need that we have to be “entertained” is the same driving force that changes a 15 minute half-time into a 30 minute mini concert.

What are the fundamentals and why have we strayed so far from them?

Jesus said that the pharisees and teachers of the law followed the law to the letter. And that was a good thing. But, they didn’t take it that next step. Jesus said that if we are angry enough to think about killing someone, it’s the same as if we had. If we think lustfully of someone, it’s the same as adultery. Not only are we called to forgive…but to love our enemies. What good is it if we love only those who love us? Do not murders and thieves do the same? Do not evil men love their own? But Christ calls us to love those who do us evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

One of my favorite songs by the late Gerry Rafferty says, “Whatevers written in your heart, that’s all that matters.”

What is written in your heart? If its Christ, then you don’t have room for other things, such as hate, resentment, envy, greed, lust. These things cannot co-exist with Christ. We must give them up. We must turn them over to Christ.

I have to admit, my heart has been filled with things such as these of late. Last night’s sermon was a heart check for me. These things have no place in my heart, if I want to follow Christ. And the longer they are there, the more of a foothold they get.

A favorite movie of mine is Bull Durham, the story of a washed up catcher in the minor leagues whose job it is to mentor an up and coming pitcher. The pitcher, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh says to a reporter near the end of the movie:  “Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes, you win; sometimes, you lose; and sometimes, it rains. Think about that for a while.”

Christianity is made complex by man. By rules and regulations, by hype and distractions. But the fundamentals are easy.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” ~~Mark 12

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