Jesus always used the simplest but most powerful images in his teachings. One time he startled people listening to him when he said, “It won’t matter if you call out ‘Lord, Lord’ when you die.” It won’t matter? It is interesting because people can be misled by their own estimation of themselves and their gifts. Imagine a person standing before Jesus and saying, “Listen, Lord, I want you to know that I cast out demons using your power. Not bad, eh?” But another person rises, steps up, and says, “Yes, but I healed people right and left. On a good day, I raised a couple of dead people to life. Top that!” And yet, if we don’t do the will of the Father, Jesus says his response will be: “I never knew you” (Mt 7:23–23).
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus’ whole teaching can be so attainable? “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27). A child could understand Jesus’ simple words.
The image Jesus uses is the foundation upon which a person builds his “house,” which is another way of saying his “self-image.” We notice that Jesus doesn’t mention whether the house is a hut, a rundown shack, a one-room apartment, or a mansion. What we build externally will always depend on the circumstances of our lives and the “materials” we have in order to build our very selves.
But what we realize is that it does not matter in terms of eternity what kind of “house” we build. It is the foundation on which that house stands that is important.
Within the Body of Christ, there is a hierarchy chosen to lead and guide the Church—groups of priests, vowed religious, and laypeople—who represent 99 percent of the Church. But, in reality, all the people of God have the same Gospel obligations regardless of their status, their learning, or their gifts.
This fact is seen most dramatically when we look at the thousands of saints. No two alike. They are young and old, single and married, religious, clergy and laity, rich and poor. Jesus’ own life is further proof. Were not his closest friends sinners, outcasts, and those who were told by religious leaders that they were not loved by God? In fact, Jesus’ life was a scandal to those who considered themselves, in their self-righteous way, God’s special friends.
We are graced so much because, when you come down to it, didn’t Jesus make his teaching clear and simple? What are helpful are the images and examples he used. No one can claim that Jesus’ teaching is too complicated. It’s quite the opposite.
Dear Friar Jack: Thank you for your informative E-spiration about the Franciscan Coat of Arms. Anything about Franciscan spirituality is wonderful to read! Ann
Dear Friar Jack: Beautiful! Francis followed the example of Jesus so perfectly. William
Dear Friar Jack: An interesting, faith-enriching read! Beth
A: Dear Ann, William, and Beth: I am pleased that you found my reflection on the Franciscan Coat of Arms so meaningful. I’m always happy to see that the E-spirations reach people. To all of you, far and near, I pray for your peace and good health! Friar Jack