Sunday, February 23, 2020

Turning the Other Cheek

(Seventh Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on February 23, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103:1-13; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48.) 

{For the audio version of this homily, click here: Seventh Sunday 2020]

“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.”

Those are some of the most troubling and confusing words in all of Sacred Scripture.  People read them and respond with surprise and sometimes even with shock.  They’ll say, “Lord Jesus, what are you talking about?  Are you saying that I should never defend myself in any situation?  Are you saying that I’m supposed to go through life like a ‘doormat’—allowing people to insult me and take advantage of me and walk all over me?”

Those are very good questions.  I’ll try to answer them today in this homily with the help of St. Thomas Aquinas, who is arguably the greatest theologian in the history of the Church.

Aquinas makes reference to this troublesome verse from Matthew 5 in his commentary on the Gospel of John—when he’s discussing the appearance of Jesus before Annas, the high priest.  The story is found in John, chapter 18.  Let me refresh your memory now by reading you that brief section of Scripture:

[This event happened on Holy Thursday night, after the Last Supper.]
[Annas] the high priest questioned Jesus, first about his disciples, then about his teaching.  Jesus answered by saying: “I have spoken publicly to any who would listen.  I always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews come together.  There was nothing secret about anything I said.  Why do you question me?  Question those who heard me when I spoke.  It should be obvious that they will know what I said.”  At this reply, one of the guards who was standing nearby gave Jesus a sharp blow on the face.  “Is that the way to answer the high priest?”  Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong produce the evidence, but if I spoke the truth why hit me?”

In this case, as Aquinas notes, our Lord defended himself.  Physically speaking, he did not offer that guard his other cheek for him to slap.

At other times during his passion, however, Jesus did suffer in silence, without defending himself verbally or in any other way.  When, for example, the Roman soldiers struck him repeatedly on the head with a reed, Jesus said nothing.  When the chief priests and elders made false charges against him—attacking him verbally—our Lord “made no answer” according to Matthew 27: 12.

So it seems that sometimes Jesus did defend himself, and at other times he very quietly and very patiently endured physical and verbal abuse without defending himself in any way.  And, of course, in both cases—both when he defended himself and when he didn’t—he harbored no hatred or bitterness whatsoever toward his attackers.

Aquinas makes the point that, as disciples of Christ, we need to try to follow Jesus’ example here—as we should in every situation of life.  Along with other great theologians like St. Augustine, Aquinas says that if we want to know how to follow a particular command that’s given to us in the Bible (like the command to turn the other cheek), we need to look and see how Jesus followed that command in his own life, and how the great saints of the Church were faithful to it in theirs.  So the very fact that Jesus sometimes defended himself means that his command to “turn the other cheek” doesn’t apply literally to every situation and circumstance of life.

Yet in all situations we must avoid hatred and vindictiveness, as Jesus always avoided hatred and vindictiveness.

Here’s how St. Thomas Aquinas put it:
Sacred Scripture should be understood according to the way Christ and other holy persons followed it.  Now, Christ did not turn his other cheek here [in that story from John’s Gospel that I read to you a few moments ago]; and Paul did not do so either.  Accordingly, we should not think that Christ has commanded us to actually turn our physical cheek to one who has struck the other. We should understand it to mean that we should be ready to do this if it turned out to be necessary to do so. That is, our attitude should be such that we would not be inwardly stirred up against the one striking us, but be ready or disposed to endure the same or even more.  This is how our Lord observed it, for he offered his body to be killed.  So, our Lord's defense is useful for our instruction. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Lecture 4)
On the personal level, this teaching of Thomas Aquinas brings to mind almost immediately the big “gay marriage controversy” that took place in our state and town several years ago—when our state legislature was debating the bill that eventually legalized the practice here in Rhode Island.

Remember that?

As many of you will recall, I was falsely accused in the press and media at the time of “lobbying from the pulpit in violation of the Church’s tax exempt status.” (That’s a direct quote from the Westerly Sun.)

All because I urged my parishioners to exercise their constitutional right of free speech by letting Senator Dennis Algiere know where they stood on the issue! 

I didn’t even tell people which side of the issue they should take—although I obviously thought that most would voice their support for traditional marriage.

And hopefully most still would.

For doing this I was attacked in the Sun, in the Providence Journal (by columnist Bob Kerr), on the Buddy Cianci Show—and probably in a number living rooms and barrooms in southern New England.

But, with the exception of some things I said from this pulpit, I remained relatively silent about the situation—until the Sun needlessly resurrected the whole controversy in late June of that year.  At that point I decided that the Lord wanted me to be silent no more and to (as the old saying goes) “set the record straight.”

So I wrote a letter to the Sun about what I actually did say when I had urged parishioners to contact Senator Algiere.  (The Sun’s writers had gotten the details almost totally wrong in their initial reporting.)  I also accused them of “yellow journalism” and of trying to undermine my credibility as a religious leader in this community.  I suppose nowadays I would accuse them of publishing “fake news”!

And what was their response?

Well, as some of you will remember, they actually gave my letter special status by making it the guest editorial on the day it was published!

Go figure.

I believe there was a time to be silent in this situation—and bear the “slap on the cheek” for the sake of Christ and his Gospel; but I also believe there was a time to speak out and defend not only myself, but also the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and, to some extent, many of you (because those of you who made calls to Senator Algiere were implicated indirectly in all this).

Now, in both cases—both when I was silent and when I spoke out—I tried to act (as Thomas Aquinas would say) without being “inwardly stirred against the ones striking me.”  And so I had to pray for the grace to love my enemies—because, as is the case with most people, my first inclination is not to love my enemies!

I’m being totally honest here.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me this (afternoon) morning, I’m not saying that I always do this perfectly in my life.  Jesus was always silent when he should have been silent and he always defended himself when he should have defended himself.

That’s because he was (and is) God.

But I’m not God, and neither are you!  We can easily get it wrong—and we sometimes do.

We have to be humble enough to admit that.

This is yet another reason why we need to pray every day—especially when we’re faced with one of these situations.

And our prayer needs to go something like this:
Dear Lord, help me to know.  Help me to know your perfect and holy will.  Help me to recognize those moments when you want me to defend myself, and those moments when you want me to endure the “slap on the cheek” for your sake.  My emotions will always tell me to retaliate when I’m offended in any way, but you call me to live by faith and not by my emotions. 
Enable me to know your will in this situation I’m presently facing.  But, regardless of whether you’re calling me to defend myself right now or to be silent, help me to do so with love in my heart—the kind of love you always had in your heart, even for your enemies.  Amen. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Consequences of Moral Mediocrity

(Sixth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on February 16, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Sixth Sunday 2020]

John stood before the assembly of students on the first day of school and he said, "Good morning, boys and girls, I'm your new principal.  Welcome to Mediocre Middle School.  During the upcoming year we will be implementing a brand new philosophy here; it's called the "Just Get By" philosophy.  From now on, we will no longer challenge you to use your God-given abilities and do your best.  In fact, it won't matter to us whether you get an A-plus or a D-minus in any particular course.  The only thing we ask is that you avoid getting 'F's'.  If you can simply avoid failure in each subject, that will be acceptable to your teachers and to those of us in the school administration."  (Wouldn't some of you young people like to go to that school?)

The other day Jane attended the first meeting for the new local basketball team.  The coach said to her and the other girls, "Ladies, I have some good news for you.  During the upcoming season we will not be having any practices or scrimmages.  You can spend your time doing something else.  You won't have to spend hours learning plays or any new skills.  As long as you can dribble the ball without tripping over yourself, and shoot the ball so that it ends up somewhere in the near vicinity of the basket—that's all we care about.  Our aim is not to win, or to teach you new skills, or to help you to learn how to work together as a team.  All we want to do is survive the season."

Bill recently bought a new company.  During his first day as owner, he gathered together all of his employees in the corporate meeting room and he said, "Friends, from now on your one job requirement will be to show up for work every day.  You don't need to do anything while you’re here, unless you feel like it.  All I will ask is that you take up space here for 8 hours.  Then you can go home."

Now you might say, "Fr. Ray, what are you getting at?  Those are 3 ridiculous stories.  In the real world those things would never happen!" 

Correct!  And that's precisely why I shared them with you today!  You see, each of those anecdotes provides us with a clear example of mediocrity and minimalism: John the principal told his students that he was satisfied if they did the bare minimum in their studies; Jane's coach told her that she was happy with a mediocre effort and performance on the basketball court; Bill told his workers that all he wanted them to do was show up for work: "Do the bare minimum—just come through the door and take up space—and I'll be happy and pay you a full salary." 

Well, I think we all know that in the real world this kind of mediocrity and minimalism is not acceptable either in school or in sports or in the workplace.  Then why, I ask you, has it become acceptable for many people in the area of personal morality?  Sad to say, but when it comes to moral matters, many people today have become minimalists.  Their attitude is not, "What must I do to be perfect?  What must I do to be the best that I can be?"  Rather, their attitude is, "What's the bare minimum that I have to do to get into heaven?"  Or, to phrase the question another way: "How much can I get away with here on earth and still avoid going to hell?"

Jesus, in today's Gospel text from the Sermon on the Mount, gives us an implicit but very clear warning against this type of minimalistic attitude.  In effect he says to us, "Look, not only must you try to avoid mortal sins in your life; you must also try to avoid the venially sinful attitudes that lead to mortal sins."  For example, he says, "You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers, 'You shall not commit murder; every murderer will be liable to judgment.'  [But] what I say to you is: everyone who grows angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; any man who uses abusive language toward his brother shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and if he holds him in contempt he risks the fires of Gehenna."  Murder and deep hatred are the mortal sins that Jesus mentions here.  But at the root of those sins is anger.  So initially—yes—the anger we have in our heart may only be a venial sin.  But if we don't make the effort to face it, deal with it, repent of it and let it go, then Jesus indicates that it can grow to the point where it becomes mortally sinful. 

This is why we must not be minimalists when it comes to matters of morality.  If we don't take our venial sins seriously and try to uproot them from our lives, then they can easily dispose us to more serious sins.

Our Lord makes the same point here with regard to impure thoughts.  He says, "You have heard the commandment, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  [But] what I say to you is: anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts."  Does that mean that every impure thought that pops into a person's mind uninvited is mortally sinful?  No, it doesn't.  But Jesus is warning us, "Look, if you don't make the effort to dismiss an impure thought when it comes into your mind—if you entertain the thought and say to yourself, 'Let me see how far I can go with this without falling into serious sin'—then chances are you will fall into serious sin.  And that serious sin will come the moment you have a firm intention to commit the lustful act."  The bottom line: when it comes to sins of lust and anger, the message of Jesus is: "Don't be a minimalist.  Don't simply try to avoid the big sins or you may fall into them." 

The proper Christian attitude concerning moral matters was expressed by our Lord in one line from this same Sermon on the Mount.  He said, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."  "But Fr. Ray, we're weak and sinful human beings; it's not possible for us to be perfect."  Here I think we can all take a lesson from two great football coaches—one named Lombardi, the other named Belichick.  Jerry Kramer, and other ex-Packers have often said, "Coach Lombardi demanded perfection from us.  He made us strive for absolute perfection on that football field.  Of course, he knew (and we knew) that we could never attain that goal.  But because he made us strive for that ideal, we all became better football players than we ever thought we could be."

You can be sure that Bill Belichick has the same message for his football players before every game and even before every practice.  Actually the message is implicit in what he says to his players all the time: “Do your job!”

Let me summarize it for you in this way:

In moral matters, if our goal is mediocrity, mortal sin may be the result.  But, if perfection is our goal, we will probably become better people, better disciples of Jesus Christ, better Catholics than we ever thought we could be.  May it be that way for all of us.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Getting—and Staying—On Track

A beggar on the streets of Rome.

(Third Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on January 26, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 27:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Matthew 4: 12-23.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Third Sunday 2020]

The following is a true story about Pope St. John Paul II.  Some of you, I’m sure, have heard it before.

A priest from the Archdiocese of New York was visiting Rome.  As he was walking into a church to pray, he noticed a beggar sitting at the front door—not an unusual sight in Rome.  But something about this particular beggar bothered him.  He didn’t figure it out until he began to pray: he suddenly realized that he knew the man from his days in the seminary.

He immediately went back outside and said to him, “Excuse me, do I know you?”  Sure enough, the beggar had been in the seminary with him many years earlier.  He had been ordained a priest, but had [in his words] “crashed and burned” in his vocation.

The priest from New York was understandably shaken up when he left the beggar a few minutes later.

That afternoon he was at the Vatican, and had the opportunity to meet the pope and speak with him.  He said to him, “Please, Holy Father, pray for this particular man.  I went to seminary with him, and he’s now a beggar on the streets of Rome.  Please pray for him, because he’s lost.”

The Holy Father instructed the priest to go back to the beggar.

He found him—once again—in front of the church, and he said to him, “I have an invitation for the two of us to have dinner with the pope tonight.”  The beggar said, “No, I can’t.”  The priest responded, “You’d better, because I’m not going to have dinner with the pope any other way.” 

So the priest took the beggar to his room, where he provided him with a razor, a much-needed shower, and some clean clothes.

Then they went to dinner.  About an hour into the meal, the Holy Father asked the priest from New York to leave the room.  He then said to the beggar, “Would you hear my Confession?”  The beggar said, “I’m not a priest anymore.”  The pope replied, “Once a priest, always a priest.”  The beggar said, “But I’m not in good standing with the Church.”  The pope shot back, “I’m the pope.  I’m the bishop of Rome.  I can re-instate you now.” 

The beggar agreed, and Pope John Paul II proceeded to confess his sins.

The beggar-priest barely got the words of absolution out of his mouth before he dropped to his knees and tearfully asked, “Holy Father, will you please hear my Confession?”  He confessed, and was restored to good graces with our Lord and the Church.

The Holy Father then invited the New York priest back into the room, and he asked him at what church he had found the beggar.  The priest told him.  The pope then said to the beggar-priest, “For your first assignment, I want you to go to the pastor there and report for duty, because you’ll be an associate at that parish with a special outreach to the beggars in that area.”

And that’s what he did.  He was restored to God’s grace, and continued his priestly ministry among the poor of Rome.

Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, pleasant highways and bumpy roads.  And because of the many trials and temptations we face, it’s relatively easy to get off-track—even when it comes to your vocation. 

Something got this priest off-track.  We’re not sure what it was, but obviously something caused him to “crash and burn,” as he put it.  Husbands and wives sometimes get off-track in their relationships with one another, or in their relationships with their children; young people easily get off-track in their relationships with their parents; teens sometimes get “off track” by getting into drugs or alcohol or violence or sexually promiscuous behavior. 

To be “on-track” is to be doing God’s will in your life; to be “off-track” is to be doing your own.

The 4 men we heard about in today’s Gospel story—Peter, Andrew, James and John—got on-track with Jesus by saying “yes” to the Lord’s call.  They left their fishing business—and their old way of life—and began to follow Christ as his apostles.  And, for the most part, they stayed on-track, although they had many temptations to get off-track.  One of the biggest occurred at the end of John 6.  Jesus had just given a magnificent sermon on the Holy Eucharist.  He told the crowds that he intended to give them his flesh and blood to be their spiritual food and drink.  They responded by “freaking out”—to use the colloquial expression.  And the Bible tells us that many of our Lord’s disciples left him at that moment—people who had been following him for a long time.  They walked away, saying, “This sort of talk is hard to endure.  Who can take it seriously?”  Jesus then turned to his apostles (realizing that they were facing the same temptation), and he said, “Do you want to leave me too?”  Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of everlasting life.”  That kept them all on-track, at least for the time being.

From these apostles I would say we can learn 3 lessons for our own lives: we can learn how to get on-track, how to stay on-track, and what to do if we get off-track for whatever reason.

To get on-track—in other words, to discern what God wants you to do in this life—you must develop a personal relationship with Jesus, as they did.  (I don’t presume that every Catholic has a personal relationship with Jesus; although every Catholic should—as Fr. Najim has reminded us all many times.)  In today’s Gospel, we hear how the apostles were called by our Lord and how they immediately dropped everything to follow him.  That may seem a bit far-fetched, until you realize that this was probably not the first time these men had encountered Jesus.  If you read John’s Gospel, it seems they had already met our Lord at least once.  So a personal relationship with Jesus had already begun for these men, such that when he called them in today’s story, they responded without hesitation.  Based on their previous encounter, they understood that Jesus was anointed of God and worthy of their trust and obedience. 

We encounter Jesus in many ways, but most of all through prayer and the sacraments.  Consequently, if we want to be like these apostles by getting and staying on track, then prayer and the sacraments—especially the Eucharist and Confession—need to be at the center of our lives.

I think it’s safe to say that from this moment when they left their fishing business until the end of their lives, Peter, Andrew, James and John didn’t make any major decision without consulting Jesus—that’s how deep their personal relationships with Jesus were!  How do you make important decisions in your life?  How do you decide the right thing to do?  Do you make an effort to consult Jesus?  Do you take it to prayer and get spiritual direction when necessary?  Or do you do what “feels” right?  Or what the majority tells you to do?  If you think you’re called to marriage, for example, have you asked Jesus to bring the right person into your life—the person he knows you should marry?  I hope you have, because if you haven’t it’s highly likely you’ll get somebody else! 

And here’s something else we learn from the apostles about staying on-track: get the right friends!  The apostles had each other; the beggar priest in Rome had his old classmate from the seminary who cared enough about him to speak to the pope about his situation, and he had the pope himself who reached out to him in his need.  Whom do you have?  What are your friends like?  Friends can either get you off-track and keep you there, or they can help get you on-track and motivate you to stay there.  St. Paul once said, “Bad company corrupts good morals.”  If that’s true (and it is), then the opposite is also true: Good company inspires good morals. 

And what do you do if and when you get off-track?—if and when you get de-railed? 

You do what the apostles did on Easter after their Holy Week “derailment”—you go back to Jesus!  You don’t listen to Satan by giving up hope and staying away!  Peter, for example, who had denied Jesus 3 times, professed his love for Jesus 3 times when the Lord appeared to him at the Sea of Galilee.  The Lord is not likely to appear to us in that same fashion, but he doesn’t have to!  He is just as present to us in the sacrament of Confession, where he absolves us through the priest who acts in his person.  Sin de-rails us, but Confession re-rails us.  When the de-railed beggar-priest went to Confession to the Holy Father, he was immediately put back on-track.  And so it can be for us.

The bottom line is this: It’s Jesus who gets us on-track; it’s Jesus working through prayer, the sacraments, and good friends who keeps us on track; and it’s Jesus in the sacrament of Reconciliation who puts us back on-track.

So regardless of whether you’re on or off track at the present time, the answer is the same: Jesus.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Do Your Job!

(Second Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on January 19, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 49:3-6; Psalm 40:2-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Second Sunday 2020]

“Starting at tight end for the New England Patriots: John the Baptist.”

I’m not sure that would have worked.  I’m not sure that John the Baptist could have replaced Rob Gronkowski at tight end for the Patriots this past season—or anyone else on the team for that matter.  After all, John probably wasn’t a really big guy to begin with.  The Bible says that he lived on a diet of “locusts and wild honey”.  That’s not the kind of diet that’s going to pack on the muscle—the kind of muscle you need if you want to play tight end in the National Football League.

But regardless of whether or not John the Baptist (if he had lived in our time) could have actually played for the Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, one thing’s for certain: John the Baptist and Bill Belichick—at least on one very important matter—would be in total agreement.

Let me explain. 

As many of you know, Coach Belichick is famous for one command that he constantly gives to his team.  Coach Belichick is famous for telling his players, “Do your job.”  Do—your—job!  In other words, “Don’t worry about the other 10 Patriot players who are on the field with you for a particular play.  Worry about yourself!  Worry about yourself and what YOU’RE supposed to do on that play—even if it’s only a very small job.  If every player does that—if every player does his own personal job on the play—the play will be successful.”

John the Baptist had a similar attitude—not about football, but about life: about the history of salvation and his role in it.  For example, when John was asked by some Jewish priests and Levites if he was the Messiah, he said very directly and very clearly, “I’m not the Messiah.”  John knew that that was not his role in God’s salvific plan.  That wasn’t his “job.”  John understood that he was only the “voice”: the voice that was to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of their Messiah; the voice crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare a way for the Lord, make straight his paths.”  He was the best man, not the bridegroom; and he understood that he needed to fade more and more into the background as the bridegroom—his cousin Jesus—took center stage. 

“He must increase; I must decrease,” John said.  Or, as he put it in today’s gospel reading, “The reason why I came baptizing with water was that he [i.e., the true Messiah] might be made known to Israel.”

You see, in effect, God told John the Baptist exactly what Coach Bill Belichick tells his players: “Do your job!”

And John did!  He knew his role; he accepted his role and he made the most of it (which is one of the reasons Jesus called him “the greatest man ever born of woman”).  And this was at the root of John’s humility.  He didn’t try to be or pretend to be someone he was not.  He knew who he was, he knew what God expected of him—and he acted accordingly.

Do I know my job?  That’s the question that each of us needs to reflect on today.  Do you know your job?  And, by the way, when I use the term “job” here I’m not talking about the place you go to from 9 to 5, Monday thru Friday (although that’s part of it); I’m talking about your vocation in this world and how you’re being called to live that vocation in the situation, in the setting, in the circumstances that you find yourself in at the present time.  For example, today’s second reading from the first chapter of 1 Corinthians begins with these words: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God … to the church of God that is in Corinth.”

Now there’s a guy who knew his vocation (his vocation was to be an apostle); and he knew how the Lord was calling him to live his vocation at that moment (he was called at that moment to live it by writing to the Corinthians and instructing them on how to be more faithful to Jesus).  And Paul did his job!  He did it extremely well.  We know that because we have his two magnificent letters to the Corinthians preserved for us in the Bible.

For most people, the “job”—the vocation—that God gives them involves marriage and the raising of children (which means it’s extremely important!).  If that applies to you, then the question you need to ask every day is, “Lord, how do you want me to live my vocation as a spouse and a parent; how do you want me to ‘do my job’ today?”  I can tell you with absolute certainty: on Sundays and holy days God will always tell you to do your job as a parent by taking your children to Mass; he’ll tell you to do your job by teaching your children (by your words and actions) that their relationship with Jesus Christ is more important than basketball, or football, or gymnastics, or making money—or anything else in this world; he’ll tell you every day to do your job by praying for your children; he’ll tell you every day to do your job by making the effort to live your life according to the commandments so that you can be a good moral example for your children.

And on and on it goes.

Can you imagine what kind of world it would be if every Catholic parent did his or her “job” as well as St. John the Baptist and St. Paul did theirs?

Can you imagine what kind of Church it would be if every Catholic priest did his “job” as well as St. John the Baptist and St. Paul did theirs?

It would be a very different Church, wouldn’t it?  There would certainly be no scandals to deal with. Praise God!

Well, unfortunately we can’t change the whole Church on our own; we can’t change the whole world on our own.  But we can change the part of the Church and the part of the world that we live in!  We have that power!  We can do that first of all by discovering what our job is, and then by doing it well.  By doing it, in other words, in a way that would please Coach Bill Belichick—and, even more importantly, by doing it in a way that will please Almighty God.