Do you only do the absolute minimum to get by?
We all know people who seem to do the absolute minimum to get by. As a teacher, I could tell the reflection papers that were from the heart and the ones that were just ‘doing the assignment.’ As a soccer coach, I could tell the kids who loved the game and the ones who just wanted to get the letter on their jacket. And there is that hapless soul for whom Valentine’s Day kind of snuck up on him. So he rushes into the Quicktrip and grabs the only valentine card left of the rack. Great, at least they weren’t out and I have something, as he puts a gift card inside. It starts out great: On the outside it says: ‘I see your face when I am dreaming.” Things go south when the inside says: “That’s why I always wake up screaming.”
It is easy to be THAT GUY or THAT GIRL – the one who does the minimum to get by. Jesus tells us that this approach will not work in the world of the Kingdom. “You have heard it said, ….but I say to you” we will hear 6 times in the course of this passage. (4x this week, and 2x next week) It is not enough just to do the minimum required by the 10 commandments. Rather, Jesus would have us know a fullness of life that comes from immersing ourselves into the heart of each of these teachings. “I have come not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.”
Most of us will make it through life without breaking the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” But, as Jesus says, how many of us at times have wished harm on others because they have hurt us or because we are jealous of them? How many of us carry grudges and resentments over the years because we are unwilling to forgive? We may not have done any real physical harm to these people. But the malice that we bear in our hearts is the same sinful root—anger—from which so many despicable and reprehensible acts stem. We have made seemingly small decisions to not forgive, to bear a grudge, or to envy someone, and it has made our hearts hard with anger.
While the law says do not commit adultery, Jesus teaches that his disciples are to resist the lustful feelings that seek a place in their mind and heart. We are to avoid all things that pull us in the wrong direction. (As an aside, I was at the funeral of a priest, my first pastor as a deacon, who was in the ordination class of 1949. They were known by a somewhat surprising phrase: “The class of 49, known for their chastity, not their charity.” Wow, I thought when I heard that years ago. They got it half right by being faithful to their vows of Celibacy. But there is so much more…)
So too, with married couples – you can strictly keep the fidelity of their marriage vows yet not keep the promise to deeply, passionately love the other person. A couple that prides itself on faithfulness but has neglected the hard work of keeping romance in their relationship has missed living into the power of their marriage promises. They’ve done only the minimum.
And Jesus probably never imagined what the Internet has done in terms of people looking ‘lustfully’ at others. The ease of accessing pornography and the number of people addicted is frightening. Its effects on those addicted are just beginning to be documented: it reduces men and women to objects, cheapens the value of sex, and lessens people’s ability to enter into long term relationships. “You have heard it said… I want you to know another truth…”
So, let me suggest two things to help us dig into this gospel this weekend.
1) Perhaps it is fortuitous that we hear these readings under the backdrop of the celebration of Valentine’s day. Because we will hear all kinds of advertisements that remind us that love always needs to express itself, to go BEYOND what is the minimum in letting those who are dear to us know what they mean to us. As often as you hear those ads, you see someone selling roses by the side of the road, you pass by the Card Aisle in Quicktrip – may it remind you. The minimum is just that – the minimum. Jesus would have us know something more.
2) If you know much about the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, you might know this. You can reduce HOW they strive to live their consecration to Jesus in a single word. MAGIS. Literally MORE. But with the sense of GREATER, the sense of above and beyond. One never does the minimum in terms of preparation with the Jesuits. It is ALWAYS more that they strive to do and live in their love of the Lord. Live with that word: MAGIS driving all that you do this week.