Grace to you!
The U.S. tax code drives me crazy. After many years of paying taxes, I am yet to figure it out. I guess many other Americans seem to have similar concerns.
The stress connected with understanding the voluminous U.S. tax code could be comparable to the complex Jewish code of religious worship, expatiated from the Law and the prophets, as interpreted by the Scribes in the Old Testament. These laws were so numerous it would take a good student over one year to read them through, and hopefully digest the contents. Even so, how could one remember over 1000 rules and regulations, plus new ones added from time to time based on new interpretations of the expert rabbis? It was simply cumbersome, if not impossible for many.
Guess what? A true Jew is expected to know all these laws. For the Pharisees, a true Jew must also have to keep them all or be considered not faithful, because the Pharisees kept to strict observance of the law.
A Scribe (scribes are experts of the law) watched how Jesus answered questions thrown at him very intelligently. Hence, he wanted to test Jesus’ knowledge of the Law by asking, “Which is the first commandment?”
Jesus answered it was the love of God (Deut 6:4) and goes ahead to connect this love of God with love of neighbor. “The Second” Jesus said, is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31) quoting Leviticus 19:18. The Scribe must have been speechless that Jesus gave as perfect an answer as would have come from experts like the Scribes.
The Lord reminds us, of all the laws, the most important is “love of God” and the second is, “love one another.” One connects us with God. It’s vertical. The other connects us with one another. It’s horizontal because a true love of God must express the love of neighbor as well, and vice versa. Love of God without love of neighbor doesn’t seem to be the love God prescribes. As St. John reminded us, how can we say we love God, whom we cannot see, when we don’t love our brother whom we can see? (See I Jn 4:20)
Remember this love we are speaking of isn’t mere sensual, sentimental or feelings of affection. It’s the gift (grace), which disposes, equips us to sacrifice for God and for one another. It’s called Agape—Self- Sacrificing Love. It’s the love which sees everyone as a child of God and relates to them as such. It is this love the Lord invites us to think about this Lent as we ask for the grace to perfect in it.
How I wish from the heart and soul of believers throughout the world, this love—Agape, would flow and flourish like lilies of the valley, soothing the hearts of the unloved, drawing the abandoned close to a place they can call home, encouraging the despondent, and bringing solace to the sad, peace to warring peoples, joy to the sad, hope to the despondent, and freedom to those under the shackles of un-freedom. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday, Lent Week 3: Hos. 14:2-10; Mk. 12: 28-34]
Grace to you!
Imagine buying a brand new car. It drives so smoothly you prefer not to read any of the manuals—nobody reads car manuals. As you add mileage upon mileage, you start to notice some signs on the dashboard. It reads “Check.”
You prefer to ignore the warnings signs because you think: “Well, what the car needs is simply adding gas and topping the engine oil.” You make up your own rules about the car until the car is grounded. A brand new car with only 15,000 miles on it, grounded?
You go to the service center, and they tell you: “Why didn’t you do this or do that? Why did you wait too long, to bring it in for servicing?” You realize it was unwise for you not to obey the simple rules. Wouldn’t you have yourself to blame after paying triple what it would’ve cost you to fix the car if you had obeyed simple rules?
The law is often a trigger word. Nobody seems to like the law, though without the law, this world would be epic Armageddon. Without civil laws, I wonder how society will be. Without the law of nature, I wonder how the moral compass could be determined. More importantly, without God’s Law, we wouldn’t have the map of the redemption journey in Christ.
Many accused Jesus of abolishing the law because of his stance on some laws laid down by the Scribes and the Pharisees of his time? Jesus, however, stated he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets, not to abolish them.
In fact, Jesus came to separate human, burdensome regulations claimed to be divine, from the true law of God. He came to fulfill God’s law and make us truly free to live for the Lord. This was his declaratory statement in Matthew 5:17; “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill them.”
How did Jesus do so?
1) By separating the chaff, human regulations, from divine law and promoting the latter.
2) By showing us, as man, how we can keep God’s laws.
3) By granting us the Spirit so we can see the law in the light of the Spirit of the law Giver—the Spirit that equips us to call God “Abba”—Father.
4) By making God’s Word, God’s law and prophecies become life—granting us grace, seed of divine life, so we can live in true freedom and joy.
5) By granting us the grace of living God’s law, as well as the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation when we falter so the law isn’t any more a statement of death, but of life.
When viewed from these perspectives, we see the law becomes God’s part for our blessings.
During this day of Lent, we pray for the grace to find in God's Law, a light to our ways and a guide to our paths. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday, Lent Week 3: Dt. 4:1, 5-9; Mt. 5: 17]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.