Friday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Maybe you remember memorizing the Ten Commandments as a child.  I do.  I sometimes think that memorizing things is a lost art.  Certainly memorizing things like the Ten Commandments doesn’t happen as much as it used to, and that’s too bad.  The Psalmist is the one who tells us why today: “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.”  The commandments are not meant to be burdensome.  They are meant to give us a framework for life that allows us maximum freedom by staying in close relationship with our Lord and God, and in right relationship with the people in our lives.  Certainly the Ten Commandments, with all their “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” have gotten a negative reputation over the years.  But if we would have true freedom, then we must give them another shot at our devotion, for they are indeed the words of everlasting life.

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s readings

Today’s readings are a celebration of God’s law. The Psalmist says that the Words of the Lord are spirit and life – these are the words that sustain us, make our society possible, and in the process bring joy to the heart. There are three characteristics of God’s law that really shine in these readings.

First, God’s law is the epitome of fairness. The first reading decries stealing from a neighbor, bearing false witness, making life more difficult for the disabled, bearing hatred, or rendering justice that is either unfairly biased toward the weak or against the strong. What’s right is right, and the chosen ones of the Lord are called upon to be an example of fairness which glorifies the Lord.

Second, God’s law brings peace. The frustrations we have, the disagreements that erupt, the wars that break out, all of these have their roots in going it on our own, inventing our own justice, and turning away from the Law of God. The precepts of the Lord are just, the Psalmist tells us, but not only that, they also gladden the heart. God’s laws are reasonable and following them can be the joy of our hearts.

And finally, we’re not supposed to get caught up in the minutiae of the Law without actually living it. It’s one thing to sing the praises of God’s law, but quite another to live them in our daily lives. We will be judged on how we have treated others, not on how many facts we know about God’s law.

“Your words, Lord, are spirit and life,” says the Psalmist. Living according to God’s teachings can bring us peace and eternal life.

Friday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today's readings

“There is something greater than the temple here.”

 

Jesus uses this kind of argument with the Pharisees very often, because they are always missing the significance of what Jesus is doing.  They are among those who refuse to see that a man like him could possibly be the Messiah, God’s anointed one, the One who is to come.  And so they instead continue to ponder all the tiniest implications of the Law and look out for anyone who might be living contrary to their interpretation of what the Law meant.  And since Jesus had a very different idea of the meaning of the Law, that meant he and his disciples were always running afoul of the Pharisees.

 

“There is something greater than the temple here.”

 

In today’s Gospel story, the Pharisees are supposedly defending the law that the Sabbath was a day of rest, in accordance with the Third Commandment.  What the disciples were doing though, was to provide food for their own hunger.  The disciples weren’t rich men, and so we can probably surmise that they depended on the generosity of those with means who had been touched by Jesus’ message or ministry.  The Law itself provided that grain in the fields that was not taken up by the first pass of the harvest was to be left in the field for the poor.  But the Pharisees mostly didn’t care about the poor, so they wouldn’t have seen that application.  But even worse than that, they didn’t see that Jesus was inaugurating a whole new Law – one that God always intended – one that provided for the needs of people rather than just the minutiae of the law.

 

“There is something greater than the temple here.”

 

So we have to hear this too.  Because there is always the temptation to defend the rules instead of seeing how the rules apply to people.  Even our own Canon law, with its many rules and regulations, provides that the most important part of the law is that it is to assist in the salvation of God’s people.  The law is meaningless in and of itself.  Law is there to help people on the way to salvation, to help people to know Christ, who is certainly greater than the temple, greater than the law.  And so, whenever we’re tempted to bind ourselves with our own interpretation of the law or rules of the Church, we should instead submit ourselves to the Gospel, which is the only authentic interpreter of the Law.  There is always something greater than the temple here.

 

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