Many people have problems with the church in America, in the world, for that matter. I cannot blame them. The church has been responsible for any number of evils on this planet. The church has been responsible for a great deal of suffering and sorrow. The church has its own sins, in what she has done, and in what she has failed to do. And when we hear the words of the many that claim to speak for the church, as we have in these recent past few days, I can only feel sadness for the people who will turn away from the teachings of Jesus, because of the ramblings of a few idiots. The beauty of the church lies in the words of Christ. And so, just to remind us all, I give you here, some of that Sermon on the Mount, from The Gospel According to Matthew. This is what Christianity is about. These are the words of Jesus.
“Don’t do righteous things so that people can see you. There is no reward in that. So when you help somebody, don’t call attention to it like the hypocrites do in their churches and in the street in order to earn the praise of others. They have their reward already. When you do good things, do them in secret. Your heavenly Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who shout from the pulpit and stand on the street corners so that everybody can hear them. They have their reward. When YOU pray, do into your own private room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you. And don’t babble on, thinking that God will hear you because of your many words. Your Father knows what you need even before you ask. When you pray, pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, your name is holy.
Bring your spirit and your will here on earth, as it is with you
Give us our daily bread
And forgive us, even as we forgive others
Keep us from being tempted
And protect us from evil
Because if you forgive others, then you will be forgiven. But if you don’t forgive others, then how can you be forgiven?
And when you fast, don’t look gloomy, like the hypocrites. They even neglect their appearance so people will think they are fasting. They are received their reward. When you fast and pray, wash your face and look your best, so people will not know your are fasting. Your Father in Heaven will know.
Don’t store up a lot of wealth here on earth. They just fall apart, or thieves steal them. It’s better to store up spiritual rewards. No one can take those from you. Because where your treasure is, so your heart is also.
Your eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, then your body is filled with light; but if the eye is bad, the whole body is in darkness. And if your light is in darkness, how great will that darkness be! (in other words, if you don’t see things correctly, you are all fucked up—Big Daddy)
Nobody can serve two masters. You either hate one or love the other, or love one and hate the other. You cannot reach out for both God and money.
So don’t worry about your life, what you’re going to eat, or drink, or about your body and what you’re going to wear. Isn’t life more than food? Isn’t your body more than clothing? Look at the birds up in the sky. They don’t plant. They don’t harvest. They have no savings. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them all. Do you think S/He won’t feed you? Can any of you add even one moment to your life by worrying? Why worry about things? Learn something from the flowers in the field. They don’t work, and yet they are more beautiful than anything people can make. If God provides for the grass, will S/He not also provide for you?
So don’t worry about what you will eat, or drink, or wear. Your Father in heaven knows you need these things. First, try to find God, and all those things you need will be given you. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow takes care of itself. There is only now.
Do not judge others, or you will be judged yourself! Why do you notice the faults of others, and fail to see your own faults? How can you say, “Here, let me tell you what’s wrong with you,” when you are no better.
Ask, and it shall be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. Whoever asks, will be given; whoever seeks, shall find. Whoever knocks, shall be welcomed. You take care of your children, don’t you? Well, your heavenly Father will take care of you.
Treat other people the way you want to be treated yourself. In this rests the law and the prophets.” (my own translation of Matthew, Chapter Six, and a little of Chapter Seven)
If only all those people who claim to speak for God would just shut up and let God speak for Himself (or Herself)! I find the truth contained in these words to be so beautiful that they simply take my breath away. There is not one little pearl of wisdom that I could add to these words. To do so would be like trying to improve on the Mona Lisa or the songs of The Beatles. Some things are just best left alone.
And you will find it impossible to find a church where the people who lead it don’t insert a good many of their own opinions to the teachings of Jesus. Even those close students of his did that to one degree or another. So don’t give up on the church because they’re all wrong. Hang with a church because some of what they say is right.
I know a lot of people feel like they don’t need to go to church at all. But consider that act of communion, the Eucharist. That one act binds all those who follow the teachings of Jesus together. In fact, it’s one of the few things that Jesus, himself, said we should do in memory of him. That one act of taking bread and wine binds us all together in one spirit. How many things on this earth do that? And, as a Catholic, I can know that at that moment that I take communion, I am in communion with all those other Catholics all around the planet. In the bread and wine we are united.
After all, you don’t eat one meal and then say, “There, I’ve eaten. There is no need to eat again.” And you don’t do one set of sit-ups and then say, “Now then, I’ve exercised. No need to do that ever again.” Anything that is worth doing or knowing has to be practiced on a regular basis. Going to church just helps a person remember that s/he is part of the divine spirit that connects all living things. That is a very easy thing to forget when faced with the kinds of problems we all face each and every day.
Imagine what a beautiful world it would be if all those people in the world who believe there is some sort of divine spirit, some creator, could unite in one little prayer, regardless of doctrine or dogma, some prayer that anyone of any faith might say. I am reminded of the prayer of Saint Francis—just the first line. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” If we could all just say that one prayer, that one line, each and every day, and understand that it begins with us, then just imagine how the world might change. It would be paradise, would it not?