RB Vs 16-17: “If hearing this and your answer is, ‘I do’, God then directs these words to you. If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue from evil talk and your lips from all deceit. Turn away from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.”
Last week we spoke about 3 necessities for obtaining eternal life: 1) controlling the tongue and thoughts; 2) living a moral life; and 3) making peace. We discussed the first one on controlling our tongue, thoughts, and emotions last week. So today I would like to talk about the other two ways for obtaining true life.
First, “turn away from evil and do good”. St Augustine said there are many people who do good but don’t turn away from evil. An example is someone who helps or is kind to a person in need but then turns and despises another person in community. But then St Augustine adds, there is another kind who turns away from evil yet performs no good at all. An example would be a nun who leaves behind earthly ambitions in the world only to follow her own pursuits in the monastery. Or we give up everything in the world but still holds on to small things in the abbey (Cassian, somewhat humorously, used the example of the monk who left all only to covet his writing pen!) St Augustine commenting on Ps 33 said “It is not enough that you do not strip a person; you must clothe the naked as well”. So that little word “and” is very important, we must do both – turn away from evil AND do good. An either/or interpretation can be deceptive in the spiritual life.
This verse also reminds me of the story in Mt 12(43-5). An unclean spirit returns to a person and finds it “unoccupied, swept, and tidy” and so it returns with 7 more spirits and makes their home in him. Again, we are called not to just avoid evil (remain empty) but to fill it with charity and good works. This is what will bring our soul peace…which brings us to the third point.
In beauty pageants it has become a joke that Miss America’s winning answer to the question “what do you desire most” is to say…”world peace”! I think this is because it is a universal desire - we all want peace. But wanting peace and pursuing it are not the same thing. The Beatitudes challenge us to make peace – but we can’t “make” peace w/in ourselves or others. However we can practice virtues that will promote it: humility, charity, patience, and forgiveness…to name a few.
To give some examples:
- If we have trouble with anger, then practice humility and ask for forgiveness frequently…even if it means every time you see a sister! Never tire of asking forgiveness until it softens you.
- If we have trouble with critical thoughts then compliment people when you get the chance – make an effort to say kind words.
- If you have trouble with silence then practice going to the library to read more often.
- If we lack gentleness, practice closing doors and cabinets quietly. Practice walking softly and slowly.
- If we find ourselves getting depressed or too self-focused then do some acts of charity for others. Practice getting out of our self and our thoughts.
The list goes on and on…
Each of us desires true and eternal life and so we desire also to follow as God directs us. By our profession we have already answered to God “I do”!...so let us “do” what God has directed!