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Don't Pick the Flowers

Fr. Joseph K. Horn
3rd Sunday of Lent (4 March 2018)
8:00am Mass & 9:30am Mass
St Thomas More Parish
Irvine, California

Ready for a surprise unannounced pop quiz? Two easy questions and a challenging question. Easy question #1: Do you keep the Ten Commandments? Of course you do, or at least you're working on it. Easy question #2: Do you behave properly in church? Of course you do. But now the challenging question: WHY? Why do you keep the Ten Commandments? Why do you behave properly in church? What's your motive for keeping the Ten Commandments and behaving properly in church?

There are three common motivations. One of those three motivations is better than the others and makes people happiest. Wanna hear about them? Check this out.

In one of the beautiful parks in Europe, there is a beautiful flower bed around which signs are posted, written in three languages.

In German, the signs say: Picking flowers is prohibited.

In English, the signs say: Please do not pick the flowers.

In French, the signs say: Those who love flowers will not pick them.

Those signs reveal three different reasons for not picking the flowers, and they are exactly the same as the three different motives that people have for obeying the Ten Commandments and for behaving properly in church.

Scenario #1: Do I obey God and behave in church because I am afraid of God, and fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell? Is our motive fear of authority and fear of punishment? That's exactly like the German sign: Picking flowers is prohibited. Don't pick flowers here or you'll go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 Deutsche marks. Don't sin or you'll go to hell, go directly to hell, do not pass... Purgatory, do not collect... a plenary indulgence.

That's Motive #1: Fear of punishment. It is an effective motive. It works. It has kept many people out of hell. It's even mentioned in the Act of Contrition. But it's 100% selfish ("I hate being punished!"), and there are two motives which are much better.

Scenario #2: Do I obey God and behave in church because then God will like me and other people will like me? That's Motive #2: a desire for God's approval and the approval of others. That's exactly like the English sign: Please do not pick the flowers. Not picking the flowers will please people. Pleasing people wins you friends and influences people. Keeping the Ten Commandments and behaving in church will please God, and so God will become your friend. That's certainly a far better motive than fear of punishment, but it's still 100% selfish ("What's in it for me?"), doing good to win the approval of others.

Scenario #3: Do I obey God and behave in church because I love God? Is my motive not selfish at all, but simply because I love God? That's Motive #3: Love. That is like the French sign: Those who love flowers will not pick them. I love these flowers so much that I happily leave them exactly where they are happiest, growing in this beautiful garden, enjoying the sunshine with their fellow flowers. I behave properly in church and obey God's commandments because I love God. Jesus even said so, when he said, "If you love me, obey my commandments." (John 14:15). The operative word there is not obey, or commandments, but love. When we obey God, we shouldn't even think of it as obeying, but simply as loving. Love is the motive that obviously makes good Christians happiest, not to mention holiest.

So, let's try this again. Ready for a surprise unannounced pop quiz? Two easy questions and a challenging question. Easy question #1: Do you keep the Ten Commandments? Of course you do, or at least you're working on it. Easy question #2: Do you behave properly in church? Of course you do. But now the challenging question: WHY? Why do you keep the Ten Commandments? Why do you behave properly in church? What's your motive for keeping the Ten Commandments and behaving properly in church? Fear of punishment? Desire to win approval? Or love? They're all good motivators, but the greatest of these is love.


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