March 6, 2017
Monday, Lent Week One
The Responsorial (John 6:63 and Psalm 19) could be the motto for the discipleship to which the Liturgy of the Word calls us in every Mass:
“Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.”
Leviticus l9: 1-18 puts morality in context: “Be holy, for I, your God, am holy.” Christian morality is not “being good,” it is “being like.” And its goal is relationship: with God and others. Once the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” was revealed as “the favor of sharing in God’s own life,” the goal of a moral life became mystical union: union with God in one shared life; union with others in the “communion of the Holy Spirit.”
“You shall not steal... lie... swear falsely....” We can just accept and obey, or we can ask, like disciples, “Why? Why are these words ‘spirit and life’?”
The answer is, sins destroy relationship. Stealing says property is more important than people. Lying makes words mean nothing and communication impossible. To “profane the name of God” means we don’t care to know or relate to God as he really is. Those who have the slightest real knowledge of him cry out, “Hallowed be your Name!”
Look to the goal of every law, even God’s. God doesn’t want us just to obey; he wants us to be one with him in mind and heart. This makes the difference between Phariseeism and friendship with God; between mere “followers” and “disciples.” The Responsorial Psalm pilots us: “The law of the Lord is perfect... giving wisdom to the simple.”
“You shall not defraud, curse, mislead, slander or fail to help your neighbor.” The Commandments of the “second tablet” have as their base and goal, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But the Psalm roots this in “fear of the Lord,” which, divorced from fright, is perspective. If there were no God, people might vie for dominance, some claiming to be greater than others and entitled to more. But if our very existence is an ongoing act and gift of God, we are all equally nothing before him. And equally precious. All are “as ourselves.” “The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye.” God’s laws give perspective.
“You shall not bear hatred, take revenge or hold a grudge.” Love endures evil in others. Because God does. The Jewish Scriptures repeat forty-three times, “His steadfast love endures forever.” And John’s Gospel introduces Jesus as “enduring love.” If we keep God and his love in perspective, our love for others will not be fragmented or fail: “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.”
Matthew 25:31-46: Our relationship with God will be judged by our relationship with others: “If you did it for one of mine, you did it for me.” And vice-versa. To love others “as ourselves” is to love them as Christ, because by Baptism we “became Christ.” Now our perspective is mystery.
Initiative: Be a disciple: ask “Why?” about every word of God’s law. Study God.