This is the third week of a series called “hearts revealed.” Jesus speaks about what we do in our hearts convicts us. If we lust after someone in our heart we are guilty of adultery, if we are angry with our brother or sister we are liable for judgement as someone who has killed. In the kingdom of God what happens in our heart is very real and foreshadows what is possible without repentance. In this series we will look at how God wants us to protect our heart and we discuss places and events we should avoid engaging any thought and heart connection.
Two weeks ago the readings pointed us to a message of purification. It is an important aspect of keeping our hearts from judgement to be pure. It begins with a step to make our hearts pure, through our offering of our hearts to God. We were told of messengers who will come prepare the way, bring covenant and look into our hearts in judgement. We are changed to consecrate ourselves to God and make a formal declaration that we choose God and desire to reveal our heart. Of course we will want to work to make our heart pure. So the message challenged us to have purity of heart.
The readings from last week point us toward the recognition that all we do for God reveals the glory of God. In Isaiah the reading challenged us to acts of mercy, these acts help others but more importantly reveal us as images of God. The letter to the Corinthians reveals Paul as fearful, weak and trembling and depending on the power of God, obtaining the wisdom of God and revealing the glory of God. The gospel had Jesus teaching the disciples they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, thus they are to pick up his mission and fulfill the Father’s will. All power for them comes from God, all the success of their work is the glory of God.
The readings this week guide us to a message of “being intentional“. In the first reading Sirach leads us to know we have free will and that whatever choices we make can be good or bad but we will live with the result. Paul teaches the Corinthians that it is through the revelation of God’s heart that we know God’s plan and that with wisdom we are able to know God’s heart. The gospel is rich with the message that what we do in our heart convicts or frees us. We cannot do something in our heart and think we are not acting with an act that is judged. We must mean what we say and do what we mean, following the commands of God who will make us wise and lead us to the kingdom of heaven.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Sirach 15:15-20; Psalms 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18. 33-35; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 and Matthew 5:17-37. This week we see the message of being intentional. We must let our yes mean yes and no mean no.
The reading from Sirach stresses the fact that people are created with the freedom to make whatever choices they wish in their life, good or bad. God has given us the power to make our own inclinations. But this does not mean we should avoid the good God teaches in the law or through his commands. God as creator provides guidance that we may live our best life. We are free to obey the law or ignore it. We can drink or burn, live or die, do good or evil, we are free to choose. But on all, God watches, with understanding and knowing. God does not force us to do anything, but we must know what we choose the consequences will come and we will live with those consequences. What you do should be your choice, don’t accidentally do bad or good. Be intentional in all you do. Whether you are intentional or not, the result will claim you and you will have to accept the result. So as Jesus will say, let your yes mean yes, choose, decide, use God’s wisdom to lead you to make good choices. Remembering, however you choose to act, your choices reveal who you are, what is in your heart.Whether you are intentional or not, the result will claim you and you will have to accept the result. So as Jesus will say, let your yes mean yes, choose, decide, use God’s wisdom to lead you to make good choices. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the first letter Paul has written to the community at Corinth, he speaks of wisdom and revelation. He is telling of God’s wisdom, that God had a plan but it was not revealed until Jesus revealed that plan. It is like Paul is telling us through Jesus God’s heart is revealed. We are seeing God’s love sending Jesus to be crucified. The physical plan is obvious but we need the wisdom of the spirit to discover God’s revelation that Jesus’ dying is so others will live. What the eye has not seen, or ear heard can only be learned by the heart. It is the heart that discovers God’s heart and knows God’s love for us. We know this from the spirit who scrutinizes everything. The rulers of the age made a decision to crucify Jesus but they did not know the consequences, or who they were crucifying. Paul tells us we must let the spirit scrutinize us, and we scrutinize the heart of God before going forward with any decision. To be intentional requires we have wisdom, not wisdom of the mind that the world respects but the wisdom of the heart that God reveals. God revealing his heart allows us to have wisdom and to be intentional wisely.To be intentional requires we have wisdom, not wisdom of the mind that the world respects but the wisdom of the heart that God reveals. God revealing his heart allows us to have wisdom and to be intentional wisely. Click To Tweet
In the gospel message from Matthew, Jesus’ teaching is rich in the message that what we do in our heart convicts us. If we lust after a woman we commit adultery, if we are angry with another we could be convicted of murder and we should not attempt to go to God looking for relationship and love without first reconciling with someone with whom we have something against. Jesus tells us if it is our right eye that is causing us to lust, or be angry or lead us astray in any way we are better off cutting it out than allowing it to cause us to sin. What is in our heart is what leads us and if we allow sin to enter our heart we will be led to condemnation.
Jesus also address a common occurrence; people of the time were taking oaths when they intended to give their word. So much so that regular promises or agreeing or disagreeing to do something had no meaning, it is only when an oath was taken could the word be trusted. Jesus teaches this is not the way it should be, rather let yes mean yes and no mean no. In other words say what you mean, be intentional in all you say and all you do. Jesus teaches we should have hearts that are open, that are pure, that are righteous so that we can enter the kingdom of heaven. We don’t enter the kingdom at some future date but we enter it when we decide to be intentional and live the wisdom of God. When we let our yes mean yes, and we work toward making our heart pure, then we will find ourselves in a place where all is beautiful, all is love and all is wisdom. We will find ourselves in the kingdom of heaven.
These readings have a common theme of wisdom and making choices using our free will. We have spoken of protecting our hearts, but we can’t go in a room and hide. We must make intentional choices about what we want to do in our life and what we want our life to mean. Jesus encourages us to reveal our heart, ensuring it is pure and that we reconcile with anyone who might hold something against us. It is through honesty and love that we will find our hearts remain pure and that our life will lead us to deep relationships, loving friendships and the kingdom of heaven.It is through honesty and love that we will find our hearts remain pure and that our life will lead us to deep relationships, loving friendships and the kingdom of heaven. Click To Tweet
We shouldn’t let decisions simply happen in our lives, we should be intentional about what we want to do and why we are doing what we to do. God has a purpose for us, that purpose needs to be done by us or it won’t be done. God is counting on us. So we must intentionally determine what we should be doing.
Many spiritual people would call seeking God’s help discernment. It is prayerfully making choices including God in the decision making process. Regardless of the decisions we are trying to make, we should take them to prayer. As we discussed above we are free to choose anything, good or evil, smart or foolish. God is constantly sending us guidelines and commands that help us make wise choices and help us execute the best plan for our lives. God is also revealing his heart so we may know God’s will. We need to make wise choices and so God, who has all wisdom is the best guide we could have in making those choices.
Discernment helps in our judgement, it is not just decision making. Discerning is a shrewd, or astute way to make a decision. We often think that we are making decisions between what is good and what is bad. But that is not always true, we can go from good to a greater good, from a greater good to the greatest good. Always when we include God, making a decision spiritually will lead us to the greatest good before God.When we include God, making a decision spiritually will lead us to the greatest good before God. Click To Tweet
The first step in being intentional is going to God for advice. We should begin any decision making in prayer with God. God want us to have the best life. God has given us life as a gift. It is not something we are to go through but something to live fully, joyfully and purposefully. Go to God with an open mind and let God’s truth push you in a truthful direction. God will guide us to truth, after all Jesus is the truth. Truth is transformation and if we are not growing than it is not truth. So let God into the intentional process.
Even if we have a small quick decision we should take it to God in prayer. Sit quietly, invoking God and let the choice come naturally to the top of your mind. When you are confident in God’s guidance, go do what you have discerned.
We have similar wisdom from the book of Proverbs, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” (3:5-6)
In the discerning process we should also be seeking from God the truth about ourselves. We should include in every discernment a seeking of what we should do based on who God has made us to be. God made us free to choose, as the readings above discuss. We can choose whatever we want but we should use the wisdom and commands of God as guidance. God made us for freedom and joy, with a purpose, a purpose that will fill us with joy. We don’t need to live out of some obligation, we can choose what we should be doing. It is true sometimes we are handed obligations, like our child being sick and needing care, or a parent needing care, or needing to take one or even two jobs to support our family. But we should look at these not as obligations but choices we have made to be sacrificial. God sacrifices for us and we will in turn sacrifice for others. But we should choose this not feel like we have fallen into an obligation.
Also we should know that we have limitations, God has made us for a purpose, so being intentional may require us to say no sometimes. We may think we have to please everyone all the time but this is impossible. So making good intentional decisions requires we say no to some things that come along, even if at first they look like something we would like to do. Always discern asking God is this who I am and should I be saying yes to this choice. As Jesus said, let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.We should know that we have limitations, God has made us for a purpose, so being intentional may require us to say no sometimes Click To Tweet
Finally when discerning we should know that God is a God of love and that any intentional choice we make will be a choice of love. Being intentional is only effective when we act out of love. We should always base our discernment in love and we will grow in love. God’s overarching purpose for us is to love God, love others and be lovable to others. If we grow in love; loving God more, loving others more and loving ourselves more, we will be a witness who brings others to God. In all we do God wants us to be seen as a reason that God is glorified. It is by seeing our love that others will desire to know God.
So in all decision making we should wrap in these three modes of discernment into any decision, we should seek God’s truth, we should seek God’s purpose for us and we should seek the way to love.
Being intentional may require we change who we are, or how we think or what we do. The spiritual word for this is repent. Repent is a change in thinking. We are heading in one direction, we discover it is not the right direction so we turn maybe even turning completely around. But changing how we think we will change our heart, changing our heart we will change our behavior, making better decision and choices. Always deciding with God’s truth, knowing ourselves and acting in love we virtually guarantee that we are on the right track in God’s eyes.
We do have freedom, we do make our own choices and we do have the wisdom of God available for us to discern things appropriately for ourselves and for God. However we are called to use our freedom to live the will of God. God knows what is best for our life and the world, and God’s will leans us towards these two truths. So we should use our freedom to discern and do the will of God. It should be our constant prayer that we discern the will of God. We should ask God to give us what God wants for our life and to help us to want what God wants.We should ask God to give us what God wants for our life and to help us to want what God wants. Click To Tweet
If we actively pursue God’s will we are living more and more like Jesus. The more we merge God’s will with our own lives the more we will love and the more we will live joyfully and purposefully as God has hoped for us. Living fully in God’s will, our entire life can be the will of God, and we will be an example for others to know to go to God for their best life.
Living intentionally, discerning God’s will, learning the truth, discovering who we are and deciding on love can be more and more naturally a part of who we are. It will help change us, making our hearts more open and revealing God. A heart full of God is a heart that will lead others to God and improve not only our lives but the lives of others as well.
We should desire a heart that demonstrates we are living intentionally. Our yes means yes. We must discern with God to determine our truth, ourselves and our love. Jesus teaches we must remain connected, we must be part of the life of God, doing God’s will, speaking God’s truth, living as God wants us to live and acting always in love. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) On our own we can do nothing, connected we let our hearts reveal God. Count on God’s power, accept God into your heart and let God have full ability to defend and lead your heart. Revealing our heart as an image of God gives God glory and makes us excellent partners in saving the world.