by Fr Gabriel-Allan Boyd
Can we get unpleasantly real here for a moment? There’s a certain inevitability that we each need to come to grips with. Life is filled with suffering. Eventually, every single one of us will come face to face with some event we will have to suffer through. Whether we’re affluent with the healthiest of lifestyles. Or even if we have a career of which most people could only dream. Regardless of our having the best possible medical-insurance coverage. Even if our family relationships are the most devoted ones possible. Irrespective of how good our life might be, it’s a universal inevitability that every single one of us will be confronted at some point with at least one (and likely more than one) catastrophic incident that we will have to suffer through. It might be a major illness, an accidental injury of some type, the debilitation and even death of a beloved family member…or possibly even the betrayal a loved one. Nevertheless, no matter what we try to do to ward it off, suffering in life will eventually happen to every single one of us.
And sooner or later, most of us are smart enough to figure out that the one thing we need to make the struggles and pain and heartache in life worth going through, is fulfillment. Fulfillment gives meaning to our sufferings to make them more bearable. There’s a problem with that though. Similar to that old country song, “Lookin’ for Love in all the Wrong Places,” we usually go off, looking for fulfillment in things that are ultimately unfulfilling. For instance, we like to tell each other the lie that career-success is fulfilling and then (God help us!), we impose that lie upon our children. Yet, anyone who’s had career success can tell you, it leaves you feeling pretty devoid of any feeling of peace or fulfillment. Building your life around the pursuit of career success means that your dreams and aspirations will always be one or two steps out ahead of you, continuously leaving you feeling anxious and dissatisfied. The instant you accomplish one part of career success, there’s always more of it out there beyond your reach, expecting more from you…robbing you of what’s really important. From seeking happiness, to accumulating unique experiences, to amusements and recreation, to unearthing your own esoteric truth, to the attaining of wealth for self-esteem’s sake, to pouring oneself into political revolution…the list of lies we tell ourselves of the places we can find fulfillment is incredibly long. But the wisest wise-man who ever lived, King Solomon, offers this piece of advice for us to ponder: “There is a way that, although it appears to be right to us, in the end, it leads to death, where laughter conceals pain and rejoicing finds its end in anguish” (Proverbs 14:12-13).
For our own sake, our God, who loves us more than we can possibly imagine, compassionately hopes that we’d learn to be more discerning about where we go looking for fulfillment. But it’s usually pretty difficult for us to figure out, because every sin is merely a distortion of something that was originally created as good…meant to draw us toward communion with God. Likewise, each of those aforementioned lies (like the many different religions of the world) contains just a tiny element of truth, otherwise we wouldn’t believe them. Yet, none of them are The Truth. Consequently, these partial truths become tools of the demons, for consuming our lives in misused energy, towards our and our loved one’s ruin. So, let’s focus instead on learning and immersing ourselves in the one thing that actually does bring us fulfillment.
Last week’s Gospel Reading from midway through Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” told us to “*Seek first* the Lord’s Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). In this coming Sunday’s Gospel Reading, we go backward a chapter to where Jesus has just begun His “Sermon on the Mount.” There, He talks about fulfillment. He says, “…I have come *to fulfill* the law and the prophets.” But why should we care? Although He says them both in the same sermon, do these two things, seeking first God’s Kingdom, and having the law and the prophets fulfilled in Jesus Christ, have anything to do with each other? Does Jesus’ filling up of the law and the prophets with Himself have anything to do with us?
In this comment about the law and the prophets, Jesus was addressing a criticism that the religious leaders of His day were making about Him. You see, the Pharisees constantly accused Jesus of making a mockery of and of trying to destroy the law. God originally intended for the covenant between Himself and His people to help keep human society properly ordered…and also, according to St Paul, to reveal Christ to us and to lead us to Him, as a guardian & teacher would (Galatians 3:24). However, many of the Jewish leaders had misunderstood God’s law as the primary means to relationship with Him. They weren’t looking to the coming Messiah as the primary means of unity with God. Since they were unwilling to see Jesus revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, they were more concerned with the letter of the law than with the spirit of it. So, when Jesus came along and healed on the sabbath, and went into the homes of people who were considered to be unclean, and made certain claims about Himself being the Son of God, they counted it all as blasphemy. But, Jesus wasn’t subject to what the law & prophets said, so much as He came to reveal what they meant in His Divine Person as the God/man. Demonstrating what the law and the prophets were supposed to be in their true Light, Jesus provided the fullness to changing His people’s relationship to them. He is the be-all and end-all of true fulfillment in all things…filling them with Himself. When we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, to fill everything we do with Him, then we find the very thing that gives meaning to our suffering…making it more bearable.
Where are you finding fulfillment? Are you looking for it in things that are ultimately unfulfilling? Have you begun to discover yet the emptiness of those lies as tools of the demons, for consuming your life in misused energy, towards your and your family’s spiritual ruin? Are you willing to seek Jesus’ will revealed in them, thus giving them His fulfillment? Note carefully that, Jesus didn’t come to abolish any of those things, but rather, He came to change how we use them, as something meant to lead ourselves and others toward Jesus Christ. So, Jesus didn’t come to make you quit your job and become a full-time clergy (unless that’s what you’re truly being called to do). Rather, He came to help you see that whatever it is you do in life, if you approach it as a means to worship and give glory to God…seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness, then you’re on your way to leading yourself and your loved ones toward true fulfillment.
So, if we see Jesus words here in His Sermon on the Mount as merely talking about fulfilling the law and the prophets in a literal sense, then we miss the point entirely. He came to fill your reason for getting up in the morning with Himself…thus giving significance to all ordinary things. He came to fill all of your education with Himself…thus offering you true enlightenment. He came to fill your career with Himself…thus making it your calling and vocation. He came to fill your recreation with Himself…thus re-creating you toward His likeness. He came to fill your conversations with Himself…that you might become a vessel of the Word. He came to fill your prayer with Himself…that you might become filled with His Spirit. He came to fill your suffering with Himself, that he might become your source of joy. He came to fill death with Himself…that He would become your Life. Jesus came to fill all things with Himself…thus fulfilling all things.