Eyes on the Prize

(February 16, 2020)

Bottom line: If we keep our eyes on the prize, it will help us see others as they really are, not as objects.

Today Jesus tell us: "You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Back in the 70's Jimmy Carter gave an interview where he tried to explain this teaching. Not wanting to appear self-righteous, he admitted that although he had never fallen into adultery, he was guilty of "adultery in my heart". As you can imagine the interview became an object of jokes. Campaigning in the Midwest a farm couple approached him. "Mr. Carter," the man said, "this is my wife but don't go lusting after her in your heart." Carter stepped back, eyed her, a portly middle age gal. With a smile he said, "I can't help it."

This humorous incident sums up the dilemma of today's Gospel. While a person may not have committed adultery, murder or perjury, who hasn't given into lust, anger and equivocation - or lies?

These lesser sins do real harm. As the MeToo movement has underscored, it's injurious to turn another person into an object. Likewise, anger - which is a form of hate - can do real damage. And lies, even small lies, weaken our relationships.

So what do we do? Jesus gave us the answer a few weeks ago. Inaugurating his public ministry, he said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

If you remember, repent means to change your mind, take on a new perspective. Instead of an earth-bound and time-bound perspective, take a broader view: start to see things as they are - from the point of view of eternity.

In heaven there will be no place for lust, anger and lies. Heaven is a place of peace. Those disturbing desires will be purified and washed away.

But much more than being a place of peace, heaven is a place of super-abundance. Even our meanest desires will have a surprising fulfillment. G.K. Chesterton said, "a young man ringing the bell of a brothel is unconsciously looking for God." Our problem is not that we desire too much but that we desire too little. In his book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis shows how a person can create his own hell but clinging on to resentment and self-justification whereas heaven offers true freedom and joy.

Some worry that if we think too much about heaven, it will distract us from our work here on earth. St. Paul didn't see it that way. If we keep our eyes on the prize, it will help us see others as they really are, not as objects. The hope of heaven will help to curb anger and resist falsehood. Citing Isaiah, Paul says this about our future with God: What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him." Amen.


Homily Resisting Happiness Week 3: Delayed Gratification - with Catholic Community Service Testimony (Audio homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year A 2016)

Faith & Truth (Audio homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Fifth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2017: Hidden Wisdom Week 2- Salt and Light
2014: Where Your Synthesis is
2011: Kalos
2005: Less Noise, More Light
2002: When Salt Loses Its Taste
1999: A Sure Thing
1998: Do Not Grumble, My Brothers

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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