April 20, 2015
MONDAY, Easter week three
“Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord”
The Responsorial Psalm identifies the “path of life” with following God’s law: “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119).
Acts 6: 8-15 puts us on guard, however, against identifying religion with law observance. Those who did that, the Pharisee party in Israel, were Jesus’ most bitter enemies. After the Resurrection, it was the “judaizing party” who were the greatest source of division in the Church (see Acts 15: 1-29). Paul fought against them during his whole ministry. And in today’s Church, those who focus on rules and regulations, judging and criticizing all who appear not to observe them, are the same well of bitterness and division.
What all these groups have in common is: they resist change, clinging to the rules and customs they grew up with, their “traditions” (Matthew 15: 1-9). Those who attacked Stephen did so because they were afraid Jesus would “change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
But change is what prophets are all about. We are living up to our baptismal consecration as prophets when we see and show, in new and creative ways, how to apply the general principles of Jesus (such as “love one another as I have loved you”) to the concrete circumstances of our time and place. In the prophets the words of God “take flesh,” because they become concrete and practical. The prophets keep making our religion more and more authentic by adapting it to the reality of changing circumstances in a multitude of ways. This upsets those who want a religion fixed in frozen inertia. Their religion is “dead” and so are they.
Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “To live is to change, and to live fully is to change frequently.” The most practical way become a prophet is to promise God you will make constant changes in your lifestyle — guided by a desire to make everything you say, do, decide or use bear witness to Christ ‘s values.
In John 6: 22-29 Jesus teaches us how to “follow the law of the Lord” authentically: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” The first law of Christians is to interact with the person of Jesus with living faith: faith that he is risen and alive; faith that he is with us and within us; that he is acting through us, guiding and strengthening us. We interpret and apply all rules in the light of our living knowledge of his mind and heart and will. This is what brings religion to life and makes us say, “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord.” And this is the joy of the prophets.