C Cycle – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
Every person, every parent or child, has had the experience of being chastised for disobeying a rule, expectation or value established as a normal expectation of behavior. When someone we love has failed to live up to that norm, we are disappointed, and shocked because we know they realize their error while they are doing it. We are confused as to why they felt compelled to follow along or even instigate the action. As the one who committed the act, we feel guilty, ashamed, fearful for we are uncertain about our punishment.
When we have done wrong, we can take the punishment, but can we restore the damage done to the relationship or our image. What will it take to get back into the graces of our parents? As the parent we cannot minimize the wrong they have done and at the same time we want our child to experience hope, encouragement, love and grow from the experience. Our disappointment in them can be overcome, while condemnation is a pronouncement of guilt that can damage them forever. The expectations of us are clear and when we violate them, we know we must do everything in our power to keep our violations hidden; we have become Adam and Eve hiding in the garden.
In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells each of us how we can always do what God expects of us. He tells us it is not too hard, remote, or mysterious; We do not need extensive study or preparation to grasp it. No, it is already planted in our hearts; we simply need to tap into that desire and invite God to give us what he desires us to receive. This passage only makes sense if you read the chapter before this one, where God tells Moses he is offering them life not because “…of the people’s righteousness or the righteousness of their hearts” (Dt. 9:5). He is reminding all of us that what he offers us in not because we have earned his grace, but despite our failures his grace remains ours. We just need to reach out and receive what has been offered to us.
God wants us to allow him to flood us with mercy, forgiveness, and love. He has planted within us a driving desire. It is not a desire to please hm but instead to understand we will never please him by our conforming to rules, obligation, and rituals. No, it is in unleashing the desire within to feel forgiveness poured upon us by a Father who loves us. Free to respond to the promptings of the Spirit rather than trying to impress God and others by our righteousness. The people Moses was addressing had ignored what God was offering them and chose instead to replace a relationship with God with a formula for relating to God.
The difference between following desire and obedience is in allowing our heart to guide us and obedience only requires us to conform. The heart is free to engage passion, pain, sorrow, joy, doubt, fear, peace, wonder and awe. While the absence of the heart’s involvement brings us to conformity, security because the rules are clear, defined and we can measure our righteousness by our obedience. Obedience limits our emotions and because we do not understand how God forgives, we are uncertain it is ours. That is why our greatest emotion from strict obedience to a religion rule is doubt. We are like a child sitting before a parent waiting for the hammer to fall. We will do anything to gain back their approval, anything that is defined by our doing something other than giving them our heart.
It is no wonder the first and greatest commandment given to us by God was to love him with all our hearts, mind, strength, and soul. To run to him as a child and leap into his lap and embrace him and unabashedly kiss and love him. We are invited to find our delight in his presence and allow him to teach us how to live in the Kingdom of God on earth. We will never find out how to do that from books or applying ourselves to gain knowledge. Remember the lesson of Adam and Eve when they were told to avoid eating of the tree of knowledge. There were two trees in the center of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge.
Jesus said he came to give us life and life in abundance. It is by allowing the Spirit to reveal to us all that Jesus said (Jn.14:26), It is the Spirit who will pour the love of God into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). It is the Spirit who will animate our worship, changes our hearts, and gives us the courage to dance before God as David did before the Ark of the Covenant.
Everything we seek from God, everything God seeks from us, is lodged in our hearts. That should not surprise us for we are called to be a people of faith. Nothing is further from faith then using obligation and duty to define our holiness. Faith resides in the heart not the mind, faith moves us to action while obedience moves us to inaction for fear of the consequences of failure. Faith allows us to love God because we believe in his promises to us, and that belief moves us to be unconcerned with failure. It allows us to step out of the boat and walk on water or to go out and proclaim the kingdom of God without fear.
What must we do to inherit everlasting life is the wrong question? That implies we must be doing something tangible so we can judge our success by what we do instead of what Jesus did for us. Jesuses reminds us of the only measure we have is how well we love God and neighbor. Love is never selfish for love is centered on the object of our love. while obedience is very selfish as it is done so we gain.