Thermostat or Thermometer?
6th Sunday Ordinary Time: Mass for Families at St. Mary’s, Clayton
Jesus looks to the heart, not just to appearances; He knows our deepest motivations and desires. In the Gospels, the Pharisees thought they were in a very good and healthy relationship with God. But, in fact, they were not. They actually ended up rejecting God. They were the major players behind the crucifixion of Jesus.
How can we avoid being like the Pharisees? How can we take a true X-ray of our hearts? Later in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the secret. He explains that, “From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mat.12:34) If we want to know the true condition of our hearts, of our friendship with Christ, all we have to do is reflect seriously about our words and the quality of our conversations.
When we speak, are we usually building others up, or tearing them down? Do we engage in crude and degrading humor? Do we join in gossip sessions and unnecessarily spread criticism or even lies? Do we use our words to encourage, enlighten, and edify or are we constantly nagging, nitpicking, and belittling? The fuller our hearts are with God and the experience of His love, the more our words will reflect His goodness, His mercy, and His wisdom.
That’s why examining our consciences at the end of each day is such a good idea. This discipline has been a tradition of our Church since its earliest days. It is good to spend a few minutes reviewing the conversations that I’ve had during the day, thinking about how I used the opportunities that I had to build up, tear down or just plain ignore another person.
Conversion is about a lifelong struggle of allowing the grace of God to fill our hearts with His love so that who we say we are is genuine, real, from the heart. 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 the 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. As one commentator observed: It’s like the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat.
A thermometer merely tells what the temperature is in a particular area. If your thermometer reads seventy degrees and you place that thermometer in a room that is currently eighty degrees, the thermometer will change to register whatever the room temperature is. It won’t be long before the thermometer reads eighty degrees. It always changes according to its environment.
The thermostat, however, does just the opposite. Instead of changing in accord with its environment, it actually changes the environment in accord with itself. It adjusts the room temperature. If the thermostat is set at seventy degrees and the room is eighty degrees, the temperature of the room will gradually change to conform to whatever the thermostat is reading. The room will become seventy degrees.
Thermometers passively reflect what’s around them. Thermostats actively affect what’s around them. If our hearts are truly Catholic, truly Christian, if they are filled with knowledge of 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.
It takes courage, self-knowledge and knowledge of our faith to be a Catholic Christian “thermostat.” It takes real discipline sometimes to build up another, real courage to speak the Gospel truth and not just words that go along to get along. To warm up the world to God’s ways takes energy, confidence, patience, humility, sacrifice, commitment and reliance on God’s grace.
In our day, parents must be thermostats, not thermometers, when it comes to training their children in what’s right and what’s wrong, in helping to educate and form them in our Catholic faith. Boy, doesn’t it seem so much easier to just follow instead of leading, of doing the right thing? Going along in order to get along in our world seems to be an underlying philosophy, much to the detriment of our soul’s health and that of our children. The way of the Cross sometimes gives us slivers that, frankly, we just get tired of enduring, particularly when it seems like everybody else around us seems to have it so much easier.
We thank God for each one of you and your loved ones who come to worship as a family of faith, to be nourished with food for your souls. We pray that our families find support in each other, particularly during those times when the temptations of the world make it so much easier to be thermometers rather than the thermostats that are leaven for our beautiful and troubled world. We pray for our children who greet exciting, and, at times, anxious years ahead. We ask God’s special blessings on married couples who are hurting, alienated from the Church or disillusioned about tomorrow.
May we all be family members who encourage one another in our journeys of faith, ever aware of the tremendous love that our God has for each one of us, inviting us to make a lifetime of sharing that love with others. Gracious God, as you look within our hearts, you know of our struggles, our temptations, our earnest desire to do your will. May the words we speak, beginning with our family members, always build up, not tear down. Fill us with your graces so that we may know the joy and peace that only you can bring to us and our families today and always.