How do our lives bear fruit? Today in the Gospel, a man comes to Jesus, according to the 19th Chapter of Matthew, asking how to achieve eternal life. Jesus responds by instructing him to keep the commandments, listing the usual ones but adding to love your neighbour as yourself. This reading made me again think of the film I saw over the weekend, Beyond the Mask. Keeping the commandments is not always easy.
Many of us have not memorized the Ten Commandments nor do we comprehend what they mean in today’s modern world. More importantly, what does eternal life mean to most of us? How do we love one another as well as ourselves? These are all complicated questions. We hardly know ourselves and if we take a close look into our hearts, most of us would discover a bunch of masks and darkness galore. We covet our neighbour’s car. We forget to call our parents after their medical appointments. We say we want to kill someone because we are so mad at them. We take what does not belong to us, including water and minerals, with little regard for the harm we impose on others.
Watching Beyond the Mask, I could not help but think of the men at the federal penitentiary where I volunteer. On occasion they do not see their past lives with the eyes of Truth. They have no ability to even formulate the question that the man in Matthew does: What good deed must I do to have eternal life? Like Will Reynolds, some of these men believe that they are entitled to a certain life. Reynolds is conned into trusting a man whose convictions are worthless. We can all be fooled by people who seem to want the best for us when really they love themselves and their own interests much more. Reynolds falls from favour and his life is in danger. He somehow manages to escape his earthly enemy but continues to be pursued by demons as he covers up and lies about his past. The faith and kindness of a Christian woman is what tames his heart and points him finally to the good deed that will allow him to receive eternal life.
I have known men in prison who have never known the kindness of a Christian woman until the church volunteers show up. The inmates tend to be confused by their feelings and are vulnerable. They need to be directed to Jesus for their redemption. I have also known men who have found deep within the Truth of their lives and managed to come out as new creations, as Reynolds does. These men are capable of keeping the commandments and usually succeed on the outside–or as we say, on the streets.
Lots of voices coax us; St. Ignatius gives us the valuable resource of discerning spirits for making choices. What may seem to be a Spirit of Light can be a deception until tested. We get caught in our pride and ego. Reynolds is not free until he lays these aside and chooses for the good of all, and not just himself. When we lay down our lives, we win them back again. If we cling, like Reynolds to revenge or like the man in the Gospel to earthly treasures, we lose. The commandments can be seen in a modern light and once we layer them upon our decisions, these too will guide us.
What commandments do you struggle to keep in our times?
What demons pursue you and make it hard to stay with Jesus?
Reign in my pride
Help me see my life
with your eyes of Truth
Let me lay aside all that binds me
Purge me of the demons that pursue me
You alone, Jesus are the Way.
Let me walk in it.