Did Michael Brown hear those words?
Did Daren Wilson hear those words?
Did the rioters and looters in Ferguson hear those words?
Did the serial killer just arrested in Indiana hear those words?
Did Jaylen Fryberg of Maryville, Washington hear those words?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself. Somehow the data suggest that a lot of people have not really heard those words in a way that makes a difference. What I know is this:
These words will be heard by this weekend by Christians who on Monday will gain substantial commissions on financial products that put their clients at high risk of losing their life’s savings.
These words will be heard by Christians who exploit foreign workers, pay them below minimum wage, and threaten them with deportation if they complain.
These words will be heard by Christians who close their eyes to the cruelty, violence, and suffering that affect so many innocent people today. So many that Pope Francis has said we are the midst of a Third World War, but one spread out piecemeal across the globe.
How is it that Christians can live as if Jesus never said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself”?
Perhaps that can happen because when we hear the Gospel we often hear what we want to hear, and in the way we want to hear it, and then we are deaf to those words that challenge and indict our way of living. The problem is not with the words, but with our hearing.
We hear Jesus speak of loving God with all our being and we decide that we fulfill that command by going to Sunday Mass. We think that love of God merely means being at an act of worship an hour a week. Pray and sing, kneel and stand, and then ‘we are done with that till next Sunday.’ An alum posted on her facebook page this morning: “Since I can’t sleep, I might as well go to mass and get that out of the way.” Hmm….
We hear Jesus speak of loving our neighbor as ourselves, and we decide what people fit that category. Neighbors are the kind of people we like living near us, playing with our children, inviting us to their social gatherings, and agreeing with our politics.
There is a problem with our hearing, isn’t there? No matter how well intentioned we might be, until our lives begin to match the life of Jesus, then we have not ‘heard’ the words in the way the need to be heard. We need a set of Christian hearing aids – that will help us in the concrete decisions of our lives be like Jesus who lived those words.
For Jesus, loving God meant making the Father’s will the guide for his life. “Not my will but yours be done,” spoke those Christian hearing aids into Jesus’ ears. In every choice, those words guided his actions.
Loving his neighbors meant associating with the outcast, the powerless, the sinner. It meant seeing those that society ignored and discarded with the eyes of the God who made them. It meant saying from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
So, if Christian hearing aids existed, what would they be ‘translating into our ears these days?’ A quick look at the papers gives us a place to start. Wouldn’t they be saying we need to be standing with the families of both Michael Brown in their sorrow, and Daren Wilson in his fight for a just hearing. That we need to be finding a way to end the scourge of gun violence that tragically has taken the lives of 113 on the streets of St. Louis this year, and 2 people just yesterday at a high school in Washington State. That we need to help the countries stricken with the Ebola epidemic, not just to prevent it from ‘coming here’, but because thousands are dying daily.
And so it goes. We know these words by heart. As did all the Michael Browns and Daren Wilsons and Jaylen Frybergs and each brother and sister who let them bounce too quickly off their eardrums and not into their heart. This week – put on a new set of ears, a new set of spiritual hearing aids – so that the words that truly guided Jesus in all of his choices, might be our guide as well.