Put First Things First
Twenty-Seventh Week of Year II Friday October 7, 2016
The Responsorial Psalm focuses us on God’s spirit: “The Lord will remember his covenant forever” (Psalm 111).
In Galatians 3: 7-14 Paul says we are saved by faith, not by morality. Faith is knowing God by sharing in God’s own knowledge of himself. “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”1 Jesus came that we might have “life to the full” by knowing the Father’s “name”; that is, his true spirit.2 To keep all of God’s rules without seeking intimate knowledge of his heart is not to be Christian — or fully human: we were created to “know, love and serve God.” If we truly know God we will love him. If we love him we will keep his commandments.3 But knowing and loving God are both the source and the goal of keeping his law.
Paul calls us “stewards of God’s mysteries,” and Peter “stewards of the manifold grace of God.”4 As “trustworthy” stewards we need to act against the “Pharisee party” in the Church who, as in the time of Jesus and of Paul, would focus us more on keeping the rules than on seeking intimate, affective knowledge of the mind and heart of God.
In Luke 11: 15-26 Jesus answers those who were determined to find fault with him, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Jesus is the touchstone.
Christians divide up as “conservatives” and “liberals,” or as “Catholics” and “Protestants,” and fight over doctrines, rules and even devotional observances. Some of these are important. But the first question we should ask ourselves and (only after that) others, is: “What is our relationship with Jesus? How do we experience him? How do we pray?” If we want to fight for orthodoxy as faithful stewards of Jesus, we should fight first to keep first things first. What comes first is knowing Jesus. And the first sign that we know him is our love for one another.5
Before we start to argue religion with another we should stop and pray together, getting in touch with the way we both feel about Jesus, and how we experience him. Then we may well find either that one or both of us is not in touch with Jesus, or that we both are and our disagreements are not the obstacle to union of heart that we thought they were.
The “fruit of the Spirit” is love, joy and peace.6 If we lose these in defending our religion, it is not the religion of Jesus we are defending. We are not being faithful “stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
1John 17:3. And see Matthew 11:27. 2John 10:10; 17: 6, 26. 3John 14: 15, 23. 41Corinthians 4:1-2; 1Peter 4:10. 51John 2: 10-11; 3:10-16; 4: 7-21. 6Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:3.