Our ladies group at our parish is putting together a recipe book as a fundraiser for their many ministries. So, one of the leaders approached me and asked “Father, would you like to include a recipe and a message in our cookbook?” Of course, I said “yes.”
I love to bake, so I included a recipe for the best sour cream biscuits I ever made, and a family holiday favorite of mine. But I remember the first time I baked these little tastes of heaven, I forgot to mix in the sour cream! Holy smokes, they were awful!
But that’s what happens when you forget an ingredient. The forgetfulness can be caused by lack of attention or focus , or being focused on the process without following all the steps, or even the forgetfulness may be caused by thinking “I know better than the recipe.” But, in any event, the missing ingredient means you won’t get what you intended.
In our Gospel Lesson today, our Lord confronts His people with this very problem. They have forgotten a missing ingredient in their religious lives and now it’s costing them dearly.
Look at Matthew 12:38-45. The leaders ask Jesus to show them a sign that He is Who others say He is. But the Lord confronts their desire for a sign by saying “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:39-40)
He then reminds them of several places in their own scripture where even foreigners responded to the preaching of the prophets and repented of their evil way.
But His greatest lesson comes when He says “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be also with this evil generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)
So, what is the missing ingredient in these religious leaders that they are setting themselves up for destruction? They are missing the necessary ability to discern! Jesus confronts these religious people by reminding them of both the Prophet Jonah and King Solomon, both heroes in Jewish history, and He tells these leaders that there is One among them that is greater than either of these heroes. But these religious leaders can’t see Him because they lack discernment.
Discernment comes from focused attention on love; first love for God and then love for those around you. Selfishness blinds us from discernment. But devotion and attention to tending my relationship with God and others makes my heart sensitive and aware of God’s presence in my life moment by moment, and it allows me the ability to quickly obey the gentle directions of God in my everyday life.
Today, are you able to discern God’s direction for your life because you are diligently learning to love Him above all else? Is this attention on loving God above all others allowing you the grace to love those around you as they should be loved? Are you focused on loving God and neighbor to the point where you can discern the needs of others and the will of God for your life? The gift of discernment is the missing ingredient that comes from a lack of love. As you are living your life today, take care to follow the “recipe” for joy step by step by making sure discernment isn’t missing in your life.