Living By Laws Is Living Death
FRIDAY, first week of Easter:
The Responsorial Psalm gives us the key to Christian living: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118).
Our life must be built on interacting with Jesus, consulting his mind, responding to his inspirations, relying on his strength. The cornerstone of Christian life is constant interaction with the living person of Jesus, who is with us and within us.
Acts 4: 1-12 contrasts Israel’s “leaders, elders and scribes… and all who were of the high-priestly caste” with the disciples of Jesus. For the authorities and recognized leaders in Israel, Jesus was “the stone rejected by the builders.” But for those who believe, he “has become the cornerstone” — of the Church, of life, and of that “life to the full” which is salvation. “There is no salvation through anyone [or anything] else.” If we want to “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10), we have to deal with Jesus.
What other options are there?
The most common wrong choice for religious people is to build their lives and base their security on blindly keeping God’s laws. But those who do this do not build their lives on God’s deepest, most fundamental and all-embracing laws — such as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might,” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (changed by Jesus to “Love one another just as I have loved you”), and “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.”1 These are all general principles that, instead of spelling out precisely what we should do, require us to think. But many prefer to focus on concrete rules, usually of minor (although real) importance, and to obey them rigidly, refusing the challenge of personal interpretation and prophetic application to particular situations. This is called legalism. It was the religion of the Pharisees and the “chief priests,” who rejected Jesus because he was summoning them to interact with the living God. The prophets are those who try to apply rules and principles to concrete circumstances according to the mind of God — by consulting the Spirit of Jesus within them.
John 21: 1-14 gives us a guideline for discerning whether an inspiration is from God. When they followed the voice from the shore and their nets were filled, John said, “It is the Lord!” The sign it was Jesus was the fruit his instructions bore. We should ask if the choices we make are life-giving. Life is a sign of God.
1Deuteronomy 6:5; John 13:34); and Leviticus 19: 18, 34.
Initiative: Be a prophet. Focus on the living Jesus, not on the dead letter of law.