While most people shudder at the thought of rules, my ears perk up and I get fire in my eyes. All things worth doing have rules: sports, hunting, baking, theater, driving, crocheting, IKEA furniture… the Mass… I could go on.  Rules provide a framework in which I am able to shine.  When the rules change, I rise to the challenge. Like bowling without bumpers or hitting a baseball without the tee, I give myself a pat on the back and know that I have leveled up. More intricate rules are in place once we have understood the basic concepts.

The readings are so rich today! The Gospel is both a hit to the gut and an intense calling to level up. Jesus is bringing light to the laws given to the Israelites during their desert wanderings.  He is telling the disciples that killing, adultery, divorce, and lying have more depth to it than what is explicitly written. Killing is equated with anger, adultery is equated with lust, divorce is adulterous, and oaths are no more serious than daily conversations.  Jesus, the Word made Flesh, has come to the world and brought through word and example the true way to live in accordance with God. Your heart and your gut should be twisted inward with an acute examination of conscience.  Jesus’ presence on Earth is the most beautiful and the most intense invitation for us to level up. He is giving us these rules that will guide a life of freedom in relationship with him and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Life as a Catholic Christian is most certainly bowling without bumpers. 

“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 25:23-24.

This is why we begin each Mass asking for forgiveness. When we approach our Lord in the Eucharist we need to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. It is more important to leave our offering, our intention, at the altar and ensure our souls are rightly aligned with obedience to God than whatever our offering. It would be incomplete to present an offering to God if we were not in a state of grace. 

Our first reading today is of obvious relevance. “If you choose you can keep the commandment, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” – Sirach 15:15

The world will know you went to Mass because of what you say and how you act. Our lives should be a reflection of the fact that we have consumed Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist.  Jesus is alive in our hearts and is all we need to be sustained. Pray for an increase in obedience to the great call set before us. Go! Bowl without bumpers!