Today is the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City, the Pentagon, and the crash of the third plane in a field in Pennsylvania here in the US. That horrible day was terrifying, tragic, and life changing.
Setting aside the politics and the scandals, fallout, and subsequent attacks (today marks the one year anniversary of the death of diplomates and guards in Benghazi, Libya), this event in the life of our nation calls us to both remember and contemplate deeper issues and discover, by God’s grace, insights about ourselves and our world.
That kind of introspection requires courage and a serious commitment to honesty. Neither of these properties are ever in great supply, but this is especially true in a culture where instant gratification has been exalted to the highest good. Our wealth has liberated us from the focusing power of daily survival and that freedom has, unfortunately, been used not to go deeper into our own hearts, but to unleash a wave of self-indulgent narcissism leading to all kinds of changes in society that we have absolutely no idea what the unintended consequences will be for our future.
This recklessness has been dressed up in words like “fairness” and “rights” and “democracy” and “equality.” But we humans don’t really have a good track record in seeing beyond the immediate results of our fickle desires. The sad truth is that it isn’t we who will pay the higher price for our recklessness, but the generations to follow.
And that is the greater sin to our shortsightedness.
In today’s Epistle Lesson the Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians about the dangers of shortsighted spirituality and lives being led by immediate desires rather than an eternal perspective. He warns the Corinthians not to be “mismated with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Here is the entire reading: “BRETHREN, our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return-I speak as to children-widen your hearts also.
Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-16)
So how does the Apostle suggest the Corinthians avoid the temptation and consequent stumbles of immediate gratification? First, look at what he uses as an example of shortsighted thinking and actions – “Mismated with unbelievers.” Today, over and over again, people who self identify as Christians are entering into marriage with either non-Christians or other Christian traditions radically different than their own. It isn’t a mistake that the Apostle uses the choice of a mate to illustrate the dangers of shortsighted spirituality. Especially in today’s culture of an overly “romantic” mindset, our emotions and desires are encouraged to find immediate gratification, and, if it doesn’t work out, well, then get a divorce.
But already we are seeing the ripple effects on our culture of this mindset and attitude in the lives of children and their children.
But the Apostle offers us a path away from such sadness, and I find his imagery fascinating!
St. Paul tells the Corinthians that his “mouth is open to you” and his “heart is wide.” An open mouth and a wide heart! And then he tells the Corinthians to “widen” their hearts.”
Paul’s open mouth reveals two images that teach us the wisdom necessary to avoid short sightedness. An open mouth reminds us of the baby birds in their nest waiting with trusting and hungry open mouths to be fed by their mother. Are you open mouthed to the wisdom of the faith learned over centuries of being led by the Holy Spirit? Are you hungry for that wisdom? An open mouth also reveals the power of honest communication based on love and not mere power. Paul speaks plainly to the Corinthians and avoids the sickness of passive-aggressive manipulation for the more Christian and spiritually healthy path of honest words said in love.
And a wide heart means that a person’s inner life is expansive and expanding with the ever-growing Presence of God in their life. A heart widened is a person who has shown so much attention to their spiritual maturity that they have actually allowed the grace of God to make their interior life bigger to hold more of the grace and wisdom of God. This spiritual labor cannot be accomplished without the desire to know God growing ever stronger inside of that believer and coupled with the daily and purposeful practice of the faith in their lives. No wonder we call Mary, the Theotokos, “She who is more spacious than the heavens!” We call her Panagia because she is our best example of a wide heart ready to receive Christ and have Him birthed into the world!
Today, do you want to avoid the consequences of shortsightedness? Do you want to find meaning and even hope in the most tragic and hopeless of circumstances? The answer is an open mouth hungry for God and lovingly communicating His wisdom and a heart widened by the spiritual disciplines of the faith to hold Him Who cannot be held! This is your vocation today. Open your mouth to be fed the good food of wisdom and widen your heart to hunger and embrace even more of God’s grace and Presence in your life.
Today, seek FIRST the Kingdom of God. Open your mouth, widen your heart!