Sunday Scriptures

Salvation, Simply Put: Trust God; Avoid Talking Snakes

by Father Anthony F. Raso

I have realized for many years now that I walk, as the saying went when I was a teenager, to a “different drummer.” This manifests itself most clearly in the fact that I find some things to be funny which no one else, perhaps in all of history, has found even vaguely amusing.

I remember, for instance, being kept after school in the first grade (I started being odd very early…) after I started laughing at the story of Adam and Eve. What struck me as hilarious was that with several million trees in the Garden of Eden, the original First Couple listened to a talking snake, ate the apple and were promptly, and predictably, shown the door.

Amused by Adam and Eve

I sat there in the back of the room and started laughing – out loud, of course – at how dumb these two were. I imagined going home that day and getting into trouble because I listened to some bad advice from my dog. Sister Catherine Elizabeth, S.C., was not amused by my amusement, and I was in big trouble.

Now that I am a mature man, a priest and a pastor, I can assure you that I still find that first story in the Bible hilarious. Some people never grow up.

In my own defense however, I present to you our readings on this Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, which point out how silly we can be. God has, from the very beginning, made it easy for us. He obviously loves us and has done everything to save us short of taking us by the hand and dragging us away from Hell and into Heaven. In fact, at one point, He sent His Son into the world to push us through the gates of Heaven with His Cross. It is a wonder that anyone can be so simple as to sin anyway. However, we do – and not just some of us. All of us listen to the talking snakes in our lives and take a bite of the apple.

As the Book of Sirach tells us today, if we will only choose the commandments, they will save us. If we will only trust in God, we will live forever. We have fire and water set before us, and all we have to do is choose the water. We have free will, and if we use this gift to choose a loving Father, instead of the most recent version of a talking snake, we will all end up home in Heaven. Then after taking in these facts, we choose the snake anyway.

Of course, such a doleful decision has its roots planted firmly in the fact that we, like Adam and Eve, have it all figured out better than God. It doesn’t occur to us that our faith is more than just following a set of rules but is rather living in the spirit of what our Father is trying to convey to us in those rules. As His Divine Son tells us today in the Gospel, He didn’t come to abolish any of these rules but rather to fulfill them.

Of course, we shouldn’t kill anyone, but it follows that we should forgive our sisters and brothers, make our peace with them before leaving the house for Mass and then offer ourselves to God with a clear mind and heart.

Of course, we should be faithful to our spouse at all times, but it therefore follows that we should refrain from placing ourselves in temptation by looking at someone else with lust. Temptation is the apple waiting for us on the tree, and the snake has not exactly retired, to put it mildly. Some of us may find Adam and Eve to be funny, but a sober view of ourselves will tell us that we are not a whole lot smarter than they were. So, steer clear of Gehenna, even if it takes, as Jesus notes, some severe steps to do so!

God’s Wisdom

St. Paul, who is a better person to listen to than a talking snake, is speaking to us today of a “wisdom to those who are mature” – God’s own wisdom, which is mysterious and hidden, but has always been there to help us and guide us. The Father in the Old Testament, the Son in the New Testament and the Holy Spirit sitting next to you on the couch right now are trying in all love to get our attention and to share that wisdom with us.

If we will simply listen, we will not only be making an unbreakable reservation in Heaven but will also be a whole lot wiser here on earth. When we realize it is all so simple to be saved, it can make you laugh out loud, whether you are six years old or even 65.

God loves us, He always has loved us and always will. He is knocking at the door today, and all we have to do is answer the door and let Him in. And He’s not coming in empty-handed: “…Eye has not seen and ear has not heard and it has not entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love Him,” St. Paul tells us today. A promise this wonderful should make all of us laugh out loud for joy.[hr]

Readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sirach 15: 15-20

Psalm 119: 1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

1 Corinthians 2: 6-10

Matthew 5: 17-37 or

Matthew 5: 20-22A, 27-28, 33-34A, 37[hr]

Father Anthony F. Raso is the pastor of Guardian Angel, Brighton Beach.