“Both/And”

Love your enemies. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.                                                                                                                         Message Bible

printbothsidesHere’s a quote for you, “We believe television news but doubt our faith.” Madonna sang, “I’m A Material Girl.”

Often in life, we reduce our lives to “either/or” decisions. The “both/and” option rarely seems to be considered. Dating back to 1546 is the saying, “Can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

“Can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Hmmm. In a few moments, together, we will take material bread and cause it to become the bread of “new life,” because we believe. The same will occur with material wine. Then, toward the end of Mass, I’ll lift up both materials to show you that the materials haven’t changed, but our beliefs about them have.

Hmmm. If only I could do that with my feisty neighbor. If only I could do with my arrogant boss. If only I could do that with my stubborn teenager. If only I could do that with … myself. The only true sentence is the last one. And, the last sentence has a way of affecting the first three.

Jesus forces us to love those who don’t love us – give your mink coat to someone who asks only for your shirt. Show the person who slaps you, your other cheek and not the one behind you. All of his admonitions come from the IMmaterial. All of his actions are rooted in holiness, not self-satisfaction or revenge. What is holiness? Holiness is taking the material of our world and making it IMmaterial. Making it something bigger than ourselves. IMmaterial is always concerned with us instead of only me. Madonna cleverly took her sacred name to sing about all things material. Hers was for commercial, personal purposes. As Christians, along with the Blessed Mother, ours is “full of grace” to the glory of God shown and lived through our lives – living with each other. The dictionary says immaterial means unimportant or irrelevant. Capitalize the “IM” and you’ve achieved the stature of being very important and highly relevant.

A more profound way of this “either/or” is from the movie, “Tree of Life.” “Grace doesn’t try to please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself, get others to please it. . . . It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it, and love is smiling through all things.”

The material is centered around the self, “What’s in it for me,” and IMmaterial is all about the Body of Christ. Any decision you make is never an “either/or” but always a “both/and” because the latter makes every decision or action sacred in transforming the material into IMmaterial. Then you know that your efforts are holy and worthy of today’s Gospel. If you’re selfish then never buy a truck, because a neighbor will call and ask if you’re free on Saturday.

Take that 1546 idiom about cake and reverse it, and you have a Christian solution. You can’t eat a cake and then have it. That’s the meaning. That’s our culture, but that’s not our faith. Our faith is always about effort, labor, hard work – all performed in a Christ-like-love. A love of sac-sac-sac-sacrifice. (I can never say that word because I so often give in to the material.) This isn’t Las Vegas, folks. What happens here doesn’t stay here. Being in church renews and prompts us all to transform what happens here to what could be or can be beyond these walls. Seeing with the eyes of God, walking with the legs of Jesus and wrapped in the enveloping arms of the Holy Spirit. That’s faith. That’s holiness.

Please remember, Every decision or action becomes sacred in its turning the material into IMmaterial. Or, put another way, taking our secular and making it His divine. If you don’t believe me, just wait a few minutes and watch what happens to those simple gifts that Jesus witnessed for us.

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About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on Amazon.com.
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