Our Christian Baseline

Listen to the Homily: https://www.strobertchurch.org/sermons/july-14-fr-stephen-our-christian-baseline/

What is our baseline? 

A couple of years ago, I had an internship at St. Mary’s hospital.  I was able to participate in rounds on the floor that I was seeing patients on.  One of the phrases I learned right away was patient is at baseline, or patient’s numbers are returning to baseline.  Basically, this means there numbers are returning to the norm, and to where they should be at.

Moses wants to return the Israelites to their baseline in our first reading.  They received the Law years ago, but now it has become familiar.  It no longer means much to them anymore, so Moses is calling them back to the Law and to God. Return to the lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.  Return to your baseline. 

Our readings this weekend give us the baseline for a Christians.  They tell us what needs to be present at minimum in every Christian.  The baseline for all Christians is this: 1) confess there is a God and that we are not him, 2) to be known and loved by God and to know and love God in return, and 3) to love our neighbor as God loves us.  This is baseline Christianity. 

Everything starts with confessing that there is a God and we are not him.  This is what Moses is reminding the Israelites.  This is so important for us today. If we recognize that there is a God who created us and this world, then we also will recognize that God created this world with order and purpose.  If we do not, then we think we are our own masters or our own gods… this is fundamental to know that we are not god.

After confessing that there is a God and we are not Him, we are called to experience a loving relationship with God.  This is the greatest gift.  All of us have a desire to know and to be known by someone.  What greater gift is there in this life than to be known and to know our God? We do this through prayer, Mass, the Scriptures and the Sacraments; where we experience the love of God in our lives.

Finally, as we heard in our Gospel this morning, love of neighbor is a non-negotiable in the Christian life.

After WWII, Stanley Milgram wanted to understand why so many nazi soldiers claimed, “we were just following orders.” Could this really be the case?

So he developed an experiment that remains controversial to this day.  He found volunteers help with what they called a science experiment.  The volunteers came in and played the teacher.  They were instructed to deliver an electric shock to the student when the student answered a question wrongly. There were different levels of shock, mild, somewhat severe, to severe.  The greater the severity the greater the chance for health risks.

There were variations to the experiment.  In one variation of the experiment, the teacher was in the room, but merely pressed the button that delivered the shock. In the other variation of the experiment the teacher was in a different room where he could neither see/hear the student.  He was merely told when the student got a question wrong, and to press the button to give the shock.

What Milgram found out was that the proximity to the student mattered.  For the teacher that was in the same room with the student sixty five-percent of the teacher-volunteers refused to continue delivering shocks once they were asked to deliver more severe shocks.  Here’s the terrifying part, for the volunteers that were in a different room, and could not hear the or see the pain of the student, only 35% refused to continue. 

What Milgram really found out is separation or abstraction, when we cannot see the person we are inflicting pain on, we are more likely to consent in negative behaviors.

For example, why is it so easy for us to gossip?  To bring it home, how often do we gossip with the person right in front of us?  Rarely, because if that person was around us, we would see the pain we are causing.  But when we talk about a person with others while that person is not with us, it is so much easier to gossip about that person. Because in that moment, that person remains an idea, and we cannot see the pain we are inflicting…

Jesus gives us a non-negotiable to Christian life.  He confirms for us that love of neighbor is a part of baseline Christianity.  One-hundred percent of the time, he says, we are called to meet the needs of the person who is right in front of us. Not just when they are in front of us but even when they are not in front of us.  Whether people are there in our midst concretely or in the abstract, we are always called to love our neighbor.

Moses encouraged the Israelites to return to the Lord with all their heart and soul.  May we too return to the Lord by returning to our baseline as Christians; as a people who believe in God, love him and love our neighbor.

In Christ’s love and Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

Listen to the Homily: https://www.strobertchurch.org/sermons/july-14-fr-stephen-our-christian-baseline/

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