March 18, 2015
Wednesday of the 4th week of Lent
Jesus Changes Our Mind About Conformity
“The Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.”
Today’s Gospel tells us Jesus looked, not to the law, but to the Father for what he should do. He kept the laws, but only as he saw the Father would want him to keep them, not by doing automatically what the law said. And he explained, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.”
Jesus knew the Father wants us to keep every law in a way that is lifegiving for ourselves and others. When he made Peter the head of the Church he gave him the great pastoral commandment that must rule all pastoral policies: “If you love me, feed my sheep” (John 21:15).
But not all obey this commandment. Jesus warned his disciples to “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6). He meant the “teaching” of the Pharisees about how to observe the law. That yeast is still very active in the Church today, and it is one of the major things we are called to “change our minds” about.
In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and told him to carry his mat home. But, Pope Francis preached in his homily, he runs into “the ‘doctors of the law,’ who ask him: ‘Why are you carrying that? You can’t, today is the Sabbath.’ … Instead of rejoicing, of saying: ‘How beautiful! Good job!’… they begin to investigate and discuss: ‘Let’s see what has happened here. The law.... We need to protect the law.’”
L’Osservatore Romano reports, March 17, 2015:
This story, the Pope said, “happens many times in life: a man — a woman — who feels sick in spirit, sad, who has made many mistakes in life, at a certain point feels the water stirring.” It is “the Holy spirit who moves something.” Or the person “hears a word” and reacts… They find courage and go.” But “how often today in Christian communities” that man “finds the doors closed.” Perhaps he hears: “You cannot, no you cannot; you’ve made mistakes here and you cannot. If you want to come, come to Mass on Sunday, but stop there, don’t do anything more” [like receiving Communion or performing ministry in the parish]. Thus it happens that “what the Holy Spirit does in people’s hearts, Christians destroy with the psychology of the doctors of the law… They do the same thing they did with Jesus” by objecting: “This one speaks heresy… this one goes against the discipline of the Church, this one goes against the law.” And thus they close the doors to so many people. Therefore, the Pope concluded, “let us ask the Lord today” for “conversion to the mercy of Jesus”: only in this way “will the law be fulfilled, because the law is to love God and neighbor, as ourselves.”
Today’s Gospel says, “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” Jesus came so that we might “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). So whatever we see happening around us, we need to ask, “Is this giving life to all concerned?” If it is, we don’t need to worry about whether or not it conforms to the rules. We must conform our understanding of rules to our understanding of the mind and heart of God, not vice-versa.
That is a metanoia to which we are called both by Jesus and the Pope; or by Jesus giving his same message through the Gospel and through Francis.
Do I choose to let Jesus change my mind about conformity to rules?
Pray: “Lord teach me to be gracious and merciful, to lift up all who are falling, and to raise up all who are bowed down.”
Practice: Never keep or enforce a rule without first looking at the mind and heart of the Father.
Discuss: How have you experienced the “leaven of the Pharisees” in yourself?