Who Comes First?~ The Rt. Rev. Michael R. Beckett, OPI

Saint Dominic carried the Gospel of Matthew with him wherever he went.  That is the reason that we see a book in most of the representations of St. Dominic, both in statue and paintings.  Our Gospel today comes from the Gospel According to St. Matthew:

Jesus said to his apostles:  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.   Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.  Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:37-42

So, just what is Jesus saying here?  When you get right down to it and boil it down to its most simple terms, Our Lord is saying what he says in Matthew 22:36-40:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There you have it.  Put God first.  Love people.    It kind of reminds me of that old comedy skit, “Whose On First?”  Only now, the question tends to be, “Who do you serve first?”  Sounds simple, right? God first, right?  Then people.  Umm…not so much.  In today’s world, with a global pandemic, racial tensions and protests, what are we doing to show who we  love best?  God?  Our politics?  Our nation?  What people believe our Constitution says?  What we want to believe?  Or, again, does our God come first?

Again, Our Lord speaks to us in Matthew 25:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Can we not apply these words to what is going on in our country today?  Perhaps if Jesus were in the middle of us here, he would be saying, “You saw me oppressed and discriminated against and did nothing.  You saw me vulnerable and refused to follow health guidelines”

We were, all of us, created with that pesky little thing called ‘free will,’ that allows us to choose how to behave, how to act.  God is not going to force any of us to do anything, just as He does not force us to believe in Him, worship Him, or follow Him.  It is time to stop giving lip service to our faith and actually live it.  If we truly believe that God comes first in our lives, then it is time for us to, as they say, “put up or shut up.”   It is up to each of us to conduct ourselves in a manner fitting our faith.    We cannot profess to be a Christian and then sit back and do nothing to heal our nation, our society, and our brothers and sisters.

How, you ask?

Lobby for changes to discriminatory laws.  Actively seek out social justice.  Keep the conversation going.  Educate yourself.  Make your voice heard.  Donate.  Protest.   Don’t avoid the discomfort you’re feeling.  The past few weeks have been uncomfortable. We are supposed to be uncomfortable.  Recognize that the ability to quickly move past the feelings that have been brought up in response to the things happening in our country and world is an absolute privilege, one that many people don’t have. The people who move past them are those who don’t harbor continual fear over the same thing happening to themselves or to their loved ones.  Systematic injustices can only become invisible if they don’t affect you.  Sit with the discomfort you’re feeling instead of ignoring it. Reflect on your own privilege and how you can do better for ALL people in the future. And then decide which actions you’re going to take going forward.

Ask yourself, what comes first, your politics, your race, your nationalism, your guns, or your God?

“But,” you say, “if I do those things, what if I make some people mad?  What if I lose friends?”  Again, I will refer you to what our Lord says:  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.   Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “

Isn’t it time that we, as Christians, start putting Christ first, start putting his people first?  Isn’t it time that we as true followers of the Jesus that we proclaim learn to treasure what we have been given?   Work for justice.  Work for peace.  Work for understanding. Fred Kaan, the lyricist, has written a hymn that is especially meaningful for today:

 

Put peace into each other’s hand and like a treasure hold it;

protect it like a candle flame, with tenderness enfold it.

Put peace into each other’s hand with loving expectation;

be gentle in your words and ways, in touch with God’s creation.

Put peace into each other’s hand like bread we break for sharing;

look people warmly in the eye:  Our life is meant for caring.

Give thanks for strong yet tender hands, held out in trust and blessing.

Where words fall short, let hands speak out, the heights of love expressing.

Put peace into each other’s hand he is love’s deepest measure;

in love make peace, give peace a chance and share it like a treasure.

Let us pray:

God, we pray that Your Spirit may rule over all things.  May Your Spirit rule over kings and presidents over prime ministers and generals over CEOs and party bosses over the legislature and over the bureaucrats over all citizens.  May Your Spirit guide us on the way of peace on the way of honest dialogue on the way of reconciliation between peoples on the way of disarmament and justice on the way of freedom and life for all.

May Your Spirit lead us on the journey of blessings shared with all on the journey of educational  opportunity for all our children on the adventure of research and study that helps all men and women on the road to meaningful work for all people on the path of solidarity and love between all our brothers and sisters.

May Your Spirit help us to speak up with courage to share what we have and what we are to challenge the powers that be to offer a message of liberation and life. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord.   Amen

 

 

 

 

 

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