Sunday, July 10, 2016

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Law in Us

Today's readings touch on the Commandments and mercy.

The first readings tells us of Moses reminding the people to turn to the Lord and keep His commandments. Humanity is always falling away from God's way. The Hebrews were no stranger to this behavior (Exodus 32:9). Despite witnessing God in action via miracles and other supernatural phenomenon, they turned away and sinned (Psalm 107:24, Psalm 95:9). Moses reminds them that God's law is in them and in us today in 2016 (Jeremiah 31:31-35). This is the Natural Law.

Recently in the United States, we have witnessed many horrific events. From mass shootings throughout the states which seem to be a common thing now, to the recent attack in Dallas against the police. America seems out of control. People are protesting all over after cops shot and killed several individuals. The divisions are more and more apparent. These things are happening because Americans are falling away from God. They need to return to the Lord. America is a nation which prides itself as being "Under God," yet the nation allows laws and practices that are contrary to Him. Abortion laws are protected as if they were sacred. Any criticism against them turns into an accusation of misogyny for the one offering the criticism. If one defends the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, one is "against women." Similarly, the idea of marriage has been distorted as being an "anything goes" scenario. Once again, anyone who defends the natural union between one man and one women is accused of being a bigot or on the "wrong side of history." Moreover, America has gotten so lost that there is confusion on what gender is and what bathroom one should use. I can go on and on, but I believe you get the point especially if you are an American reading this.

It is no surprise to me why we are seeing so much evil in America. America is pushing God away. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). God only blesses a nation that sticks with Him (Psalm 33:12, 2 Chronicles 7:14).  He gave us His law, we must follow it. These laws or Commandments are not rules meant to oppress. If one studies them well, one will see that these rules are meant to control fallen human nature. These laws are not in the sky or sea, as Moses said. They are not far from us. These laws are in us. We are hardwired to have a conscience.  We must turn to God in our need as the first option for the responsorial Psalm states.  God is our constant help. We must seek Him and ask for mercy.  Only God can help us now, not politicians or leaders in secular governments (Psalm 121:2, Psalm 146:3). This is why as we are afflicted in pain with the loss of so many lives in America, we must seek God and ask Him to rebuild our cities and save America and the whole world. The United States is not the only nation falling away from God. We must seek the Lord's words which are Spirit and life, as the second option for the responsorial Psalm states.  God's law is indeed perfect. Who knows us better than our maker (Jeremiah 1:5)? His precepts are right. They are not meant to oppress us, but to allow us to truly use our freedom as we ought.

We follow these laws in Christ who is the image of the invisible God, as we read in the second reading (John 14:7).  Everything was created for Jesus Christ.  All things visible and invisible; all things in this universe and whatever realms may exist belong to Christ. All were created for Him and through Him (John 1:3). He existed before all that exists and it is He who is the invisible head of the Catholic Church (John 1:1). The Pope is the visible head and vicar of Christ, but he does not replace Christ (CCC 885,936).  The Catholic Church belongs to Jesus, not anyone else. We can only find peace in Christ Jesus through the blood of His cross. This blood we receive in the Holy Eucharist at Mass.

Lastly in the Gospel, we read of the scholar of the law who asked Jesus what we must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus using the Socratic method simply asks him, "What is written in the law?" The man replies, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."  The Commandments given to Moses are summed up in these two simple but profound commandments. First, we must love God above all things. This love must be expressed in our being which includes the heart, soul, our strength, and mind. This makes sense because God is our creator. Our bodies may have formed in the womb of a human female after conception via male sperm, but God decides if we are to exist or not (Isaiah 66:2). God is the one who knits us and plans our lives (Psalm 139:13).

Furthermore, we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This neighbor is everyone around us: relative, co-worker, stranger and so on. Those of us who have trouble loving others is because we do not love ourselves. God implicitly showed some psychology in this commandment. Psychologists often state that those who hate others do so because they do not love themselves. People who do not love themselves do not understand what it means to love others.  Since they do not understand, they cannot express it. We must be loving of all people, including those who dislike and hate us (Matthew 5:43-48). This does not make us weak, but strong because we did not let the hate and negativity affect us. When people come to you and trash you, mock you, harass you, gossip behind your back, this is because these people do not love themselves. People will tear others apart in order to use what they tore apart to build up in themselves what they lack. We must bear with one another (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:2). No one is perfect and each one of us has his or her temperament which often gets the best of us.

Lastly, Jesus tells us in the Gospel the parable of the Samaritan. A man is attacked by robbers and left for dead. A priest of the Jewish faith passed by and ignored the man who was attacked. Similarly, a Levite passed by. These individuals gave their lives to preach and live by the law of God, but ignored this victim (Leviticus 21, Leviticus 8-10). They did not love their neighbor as they loved themselves. However, a Samaritan came by and stopped.  The Samaritans were considered by the Jews of the time as people of a "lower class." This was because they mixed with other cultures (non-Jews) and were lax in their practice of the law. Since the Samaritans were not expected to follow the law, the fact that the Samaritan in Jesus' story stopped to help is significant. Jesus is showing in the story how those who study the law become so rigid with the letter of the law that they forget to practice the spirit of the law (Matthew 6:5, Mark 2:27). We must not become like this. This is why Pope Francis has been stressing for Catholics to practice the spirit of the law and not become like the rigid priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Those who have been attacking the Pope and his writings on mercy are behaving like the priest and Levite who saw the law as something they had to learn mechanically without processing the spirit behind them. The rules of the Catholic Church, the teachings of the Church etc, exist to serve us, not for us to serve them (Mark 2:27). This does not mean that we can water down or pick and choose what we want, I must make that clear. What this means is that we must meet people where they are at, as Pope Francis has constantly reminded us. When we see a Protestant or Muslim, we should not see a "heretic."  When we see a gay person, we should not see a "sodomite."  When we see a Jew, we should not see a "perfidious person." When we see an atheist, agnostic or indifferent person, we should not see a "heathen." Instead, we should see a victim who was robbed by Satan and stop to help him or her (John 10:10). The Church must be a field hospital, as the Holy Father has stated. This is how we love our neighbor. We must be merciful to others.  Let us pray for this world which is falling apart. While we pray, let us put the law of God into practice by reminding the world to love God with, mind, body, heart and soul; and love neighbor as one loves him or herself.  May Jesus Christ be praised!


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