Lenten Journey Day 11 – More Important than God The eleventh day of Lent is a special one in the journey. Eleven is the first and only prime number of equal proportions. It reminds us of the delicate balance between body, soul and mind. It reminds us of the uniqueness of the primes as well as the uniqueness of our lives. Finding that balance in our lives, of course, is one of the reasons we are taking this journey.
Today’s message comes to us from the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 5. Here Jesus is addressing a large crowd in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon Jesus outlines a way of life and living. His message is very clear. He speaks of our relationships with one another. In so doing, he mentions that there is something more important than God.
Matthew 5:21, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said of men of old, you shall not kill and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment, but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment and whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council and whoever says you fool shall be liable to the Hell of fire.”
Christianity is really a very difficult religion to practice, in fact it has been argued that Christianity has never really been practiced because of statements such as what we read. Jesus tells us that it is not enough to say that murder is bad, but when you have evil in your heart, when you harbor that anger towards your brother, you are committing those acts of evil, those acts of murder. He is saying, “If you have anger and act upon that anger and insult your brother, or if you are angry and talk down to your sister you are already committing murder,”
If we’d like to wipe out hatred and anger from our life, then we have to pay attention to this message. It is so necessary to understanding the revolution Jesus brought. And now, if we read further, we find something even more important. In fact, it’s what Jesus says is even more important than God! As hard as that might be to believe, the Holy Scriptures points to Jesus’ words, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you leave your gift, leave your offering, and go! First be reconciled with your brother and then come and offer your gift.”
Reconciling with our brothers! Jesus is telling us it is more important than the worship of God, that is, the celebration of God. Leave your gifts at the altar. Leave God! Go reconcile with your brother and then come back to the altar! He demands that we love one another. To be able to love others is the expression that God demands of us. In that love we begin to understand the unique relationship between us and our heavenly Father.
The Christian message is about people. It’s about harmony and that peaceful existence comes about when we become part of the solution. It’s not about looking up to heaven, but reaching out to one another here on Earth. If there is going to be harmony in our lives, if there is going to be peace in this world, it’s not because I am offering a prayer upwards, but because I am offering a prayer sideways. I am reaching out to my brothers and my sisters and I am going to be the vehicle of love. I’m going to be the one who reaches out and becomes that means of reconciliation. True peace, true harmony, true existence is about us loving with one another.
“You cannot say,” say’s the evangelist John, “that you love God who you do not see when first you do not love the brother who you do see.” It is so critical in the life of the Christian that we understand this very clearly and plainly. God is Love. So let’s repeat that, “You cannot say that you love God who you do not see when first you do not love the brother that you do see.”
Our first obligation is to love one another. By this Jesus tells us we become Christian. By loving, people will know that we are truly His children.
On this eleventh day of Lent as we find harmony and balance, as body soul and mind come together, keep in mind where God wants us to be. The relationships that need to be nurtured, that need to be mended in our lives, this is a perfect time take action on them. The Lenten period is some time to go out and reach out sideways, not only vertically with God, but horizontally with God inside each of us. Reach out to the people around you to say that yes I have faltered, I have sinned. We all make mistakes, but I’m willing to rise above that imperfection and become a child of God.
By loving one another, put away old habits and problems. Begin each day as a new creation and find that new creation in the loved ones all around me.
Let us conclude with the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali:
Uncreated Essence I have sinned against you in mind, soul and body. Do not remember my former sins, for the sake of Your Holy name, have mercy upon your creatures and upon me a great sinner. Amen (I Confess with Faith 6/24)