God created the beautiful glory of the heavens and the earth, animals, plants and human beings. All things were placed in proper order and he blessed it all with the gift of free will. He placed within the human heart the desire to know him, the author of all that is. It is with this gift of free will that all can find their paths to freely love God, their very selves, one another, and the world he has entrusted to our care. After all was finished and properly in place, God looked at all that he had made and found it very good. What more was there to do that God had not done?
The virtue of temperance helps us discover balance and harmony. We are meant to live in proper relationship with one another, the world, and the God who made us. But that gift of free will that makes life so creative, meaningful, and engaging can, if not properly used, lead us down a very different path. By choosing not so virtuous and balanced choices, we can quickly find our relationships very disordered.
We are given the freedom to choose which “friends” we ask to accompany us on our life’s journey. The Letter to the Philippians this weekend encourages us to walk with the friends of virtue: truth, honor, justice, purity, graciousness and love. If we choose these companions, the God of peace will be with us. We will also find ourselves with less anxiety and in a much more balanced place. By extension, we can add to this list found in Philippians the standard virtues of prudence and fortitude. The hope is that the state of God’s world at its beginning would be restored in our present. A life of harmony and peacefulness is within our grasp.
While all of this may at first glance appear impossible or even a bit naïve, a look back at the Gospels and Jesus’ message of love gives us ample reason to believe otherwise. The beautiful call of the beatitudes, the blueprint of life, is nothing more than the constant choice for virtue and harmony; restoring the balance God originally intended. So, what is the opposite of choosing the friends of virtue?
Often without our full awareness, we find ourselves on life’s journey walking instead with the friends of avarice. These are found in envy, greed, lust, gluttony, anger, pride and sloth. Once we begin to embrace and choose these, we are more apt to find ourselves electing violence as a means of finding solutions to conflict. Our relationships with others are unbalanced and based upon entitlement and power. Avarice destroys virtue and blinds us to who we are as a people of God.
Our Gospel this weekend is filled with detailing the results of choosing avarice over virtue. It is all too easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we deserve and are entitled to more than we have. We believe that we can violently eliminate any obstacle to achieving what we believe belongs to us or what we desire. We can find ways to get what we really need without destroying one another. It was most certainly not part of God’s original design or intention to for us to destroy one another. Yet so many events that are currently happening in our world suggest that some people would prefer to do so and see this approach as the way to achieve their goals.
We are asked to try to do our best to balance the positive with the negative and discern the best response for whatever situation is presented to us. In all that life asks of us, we cannot forget what God has done and continues to do and bring ourselves back to that original design and intent.
Rev. Mark Suslenko
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
— The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis