Sunday, February 12, 2017


By Deacon Jerry Franzen   Cathedral          2/12/17
Sirach 15:15-20          1 Corinthians 2:6-10        Matthew 5:17-37

“Praised Be Jesus Christ”  “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening”

*Let’s look at the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat.
A thermometer gives a reading of the temperature
in a particular environment.
The old fashioned thermometers consisted of a tube
with a narrow opening filled to some level with mercury.
As the temperature of the thermometer’s environment rises,
the mercury expands and its level in the tube rises.
The thermometer reacts to the temperature of the environment
and will eventually take on the temperature of the environment.
There are many different types of thermometers.

On the other hand, a thermostat is a device that can be set
to maintain a desired temperature.
A home heating system is controlled by a thermostat.
If the temperature drops below the set temperature,
the thermostat will cause a heat source to be tapped
to raise the temperature to the desired level.
In the air conditioning mode,
if the temperature rises above the set level,
the thermostat will admit cooler air to lower the temperature.

The body has a desired temperature of 98.6 oF,
and we can monitor that level with a thermometer.
The body also has a type of thermostatic system
to keep its temperature at 98.6 oF when all is well.
A thermometer changes with the temperature of the environment;
A thermostat controls the temperature of the environment.

A thermometer passively reflects what is around it;
a thermostat can actively change its environment.


We can apply this difference
between a thermometer and a thermostat to the death and life
we heard about in the first reading from Sirach:
“Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
What is this “death and life” which man can choose?
Yes life is good, but how is death evil?
Death, as we know it, is the natural end of life; how can it be evil?
There must be smething else going on here.
**In Deuteronomy (30:20) Moses told the Israelites
“loving the Lord your God, obeying the Lord,
holding fast to the Lord; that means life to you.”
That is what “being alive” should have meant to the Isrealites.
And death, then, would be idolatry in it various forms,
not just worshiping a golden calf as the Israelites did,
but also the more contemporary idols:
possessions, popularity, pleasure, money and power.

Listen to the prophet Amos:
“Thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: Seek me and live.”
In the Old Testament, to be alive was to be searching for God;
to be dead was to ignore God.
We are either alive with Him like a thermostat
always working to maintain our relationship with Him.
Or we can be dead to Him like a thermometer
just going along with the flow of a sinful life,
not working to change our lives.
If our hearts are truly Catholic, truly Christian,
if they are filled with knowledge of God, love for God
and with His grace, then we will be like thermostats.
But if our faith only goes skin deep,
if we are only going through the motions
of friendship with Christ, we'll just be like thermometers.
We make the choice.

If we live our faith superficially,
looking like a Catholic on the outside only,
our lives will never have the meaning or the power
that they are meant to have.
We will end up just following the latest trends and fashions,
never really having stability or making the progress in life                        that Jesus wants us to.
But if we live our faith from the inside out,
keeping Christ alive in our hearts,
we will be able to help set the trends, not just follow them.


Now move centuries ahead to Paul writing to the Corinthians:
He wrote: “We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,
not a wisdom of this age,
nor of the rulers of this age…
Rather we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden…,”
the wisdom of God’s plan, not the wisdom of our plan.
In Paul’s inspired vision,
the wisdom of God’s plan for our salvation, for our life,
was through the death of Jesus on the cross,
the ultimate act of God’s love for us.
So, what was once life as seeking God in the Old Testament
has become more loving God because He has loved us.
Turning away from God has become not loving God.
We can’t know God and have true life without loving God.

We choose to love God and we do that
by loving those made in His own image and likeness.
Our loving others, and thus loving God, will require a death,
death to ourselves.
If I love God, I love Christ,
and I can say as Paul did to the Philippians,
“For me, living is Christ.” (Phil 1:21)
I like that; to be really living, we must be living Christ.
Our living Christ will require our dying to our selves.


In the Gospel, Jesus challenged his followers, and us,
to go beyond meeting the letter of the law,
to find extended ways to treat persons with love.
That’s the difference between just living and living Christ.
The law says that we shall not kill.
Well, I haven’t killed anybody or even hit anybody.
I’m clean on that one.
But, I have been very angry with some people,
even to the point of saying some nasty things about them.
But I haven’t killed anyone. So, can I say that I am living Christ?Hardly. 
If I am living Christ, living out Christ in my life,
I must go further, to act out of love, to make my amends
with the person who was the object of my anger.
I will have to put aside my pride, die a bit to myself
and then  I’ll be more in line with living Christ.

I’ve not committed adultery, so I am following that commandment.
I’m in good shape, no problem, living Christ,
doing what the law says. Right? No.
Jesus says that we must act out of love for God
and for our own bodies to root out other acts of impurity,
such as lust, from our lives.
Then I am further along in my quest to live Christ.

I hope that is sufficient for you to see
that the message of Jesus through St. Paul and St. Matthew
is that just following the Law is not living Christ.
It’s like being a thermometer rising or falling
to just the letter of the Law.
A thermostat has to sense the conditions at hand
and, if those conditions are not the desired ones,
then the thermostat must activate  a process
to restore the desired conditions.
Going beyond the Law to act out of love for others is living Christ.
That is always where we want to be.

Last week Fr. Maher introduced the United Catholic Movement,
a pilot process to bring back to the faith those Catholics
who have drifted away from it.
Some have drifted to other faiths;
Others have drifted completely away from God.
Many have just blended in with and reacted to
the conditions around them.
We cannot be like the thermometer and just recognize the problem,
cite the statistics, wring our hands and say that it is a shame.
We need to be like the thermostat,
recognize that the conditions are not those we want
and that we must work to bring the fallen-away Catholics
back to the faith.
And how we do that,  what is the work we must do?
It is all about our living Christ, and thus being Christ for them,
loving them and bringing Christ to them.
* This Illustration is adapted from "Hot Illustrations", copyright Youth Specialties, Inc, 2001.**

Based on “Before You Are Life and Death” a homily by Walter J. Burghardt S.J. In Speak the Word with Boldness, Paulist Press, Mahwa, NJ 1994 pp 65-70  See also previous Homily from 2014 by  J. Franzen