As I’ve shared with you before, I was introverted in High School, and I still am, of course, but because I was introverted, I didn’t ask many girls out. I was too shy and was scared of rejection to try it that often. However, there was one instance when I invited a girl to the Sadi Hawkins dance. We had met at a youth event — a week-long summer program we both attended. We weren’t officially dating, but I wanted to see if she was willing to go out to the dance with me. She agreed, and we went to the dance together. The problem was LSU football was playing that night, as is typical on Saturday nights. While we hung out together and danced some during the date, my heart was not at the dance; I was more focused on the game. I didn’t completely abandon her, but I was more anxious about knowing the score than showing her a good time. It wasn’t a real serious date, as I said, so we remained friends, but it was clear my heart wasn’t in the right place for that date. Another way to look at it was external. It may have appeared I cared about this date, but internally my heart and mind were focused on the game, not the dance!
Jesus similarly challenges us. He reminds us of the Ten Commandments you shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery. However, Jesus focuses on something more profound than just following the commandments. He tells us if we are angry with our brother will be liable to judgment. We may not externally hurt our brother or sister in any way, but if we are holding a grudge against them, being angry with them for no good reason, Jesus tells us that we will be judged. It reminds me of something else that Jesus said to us. Nothing from the outside can defile us; instead, it is that which is on the inside that can defile us.
Jesus gives similar warnings about how we look at others and how we can sin with someone in our hearts. We can externally break the commandments I don’t think Jesus is trying to say external things don’t matter. But what God looks at in us is the heart and where are heart is when we act.
As I spoke about in my bulletin article, I believe it is essential for us to spend some time examining our conscience in our lives. However, we should not only look at the external things that we have done, but we should also look at the internal stuff we have done as well. If we only look at the Ten Commandments at face value, we will likely be let off the hook pretty quickly. I haven’t killed anyone, I’ve gone to Mass on Sunday, I haven’t committed adultery, I haven’t stolen anything. However, there is something deeper we should look at. Have I been angry with anyone, and how have I responded to that anger? I have judged others, have I looked at someone else in a lustful way. Again these acts may not be external, but as Jesus tells us, what comes from inside of us will defile us.
But the beauty is that God will not leave us or abandon us, especially if we have fallen into sin in our hearts. The first reading tells us that if we follow the commandments, we shall be saved. We may not be perfect in living out this commandment, but if we allow God to have mercy on us and strive to sin no more than we can still have the favor of God in our lives!
The challenge is that when we realize we haven’t followed the commandments or sinned in some way, we should go to confession and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. We too should be reminded that in our act of contrition, we typically say avoid the near occasion of sin. We should take this seriously as well. How do we protect ourselves from a near occasion of sin? Is there a place that we usually fall into sin, maybe it’s spending to much time on the computer or certain websites that lead us into sin. Can we find a way to block ourselves from going to the places, or find ways to stay away from them?
But again, what I hope we all realize is that Jesus loves us and has mercy on us. Even when we fall into sin and fall into the near occasion of sin, Jesus is always there to welcome us back and bring us back to his mercy and forgiveness. Just like my divided heart at that dance, Jesus had compassion on me. I hope we realize that when we sin, God will be there for us to bring us mercy and forgiveness and bring us back to him!