This week is a time of new beginnings. We embark upon a new school year, volleyball season begins, football and track have started and of course the Green Bay Packers are entering a new season with the hope of going all the way to the Super Bowl. We begin a new year of small faith sharing groups with the Arise Mission as our kickoff on September 26th and 27th. New beginnings are always filled with hopes and dreams. The willingness to grow, with all the excitement this entails, and the commitment to obtain this goal dominate a new beginning. In the new beginnings that characterize this time of the year we can look at our commitment to discipleship with a renewed sense of a new beginning.
The readings today, (Deut. 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23), challenge us in our discipleship to consider the role of God’s law and its impact on our commitment. In the mid-1960s American Catholics were asked in a poll, “Which is the more important law: love of neighbor or not eating meat on Friday?” Eating meat on Fridays out weighed the law of loving one’s neighbor. This is a good example of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel today when He quotes the Prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts (Isaiah 29:13).” Jesus is not negating the law of fasting before receiving communion, but He is challenging where we put it on the list of important laws. Intentional discipleship is doing what God wants us to do.
At the heart of Moses’ admonition to the Israelites is the seriousness of not diluting God’s Law. The law is a matter of following it or not in the eyes of God. His law is not about imposing rigidity upon our behavior, but about promoting living in right relationships with God and others. The first three of the Ten Commandments focus on keeping God at the center of our lives. The heart of the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill,” is the respect for all of human life. The heart of the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” is respecting and honoring the marital commitment one has made or that of the other. The heart of the seventh commandment, “Thou shall not steal,” is the respect for what belongs to others. God’s Law always takes us beyond the letter of the law to the “epikaia” of the law, that is the spirit of the law. Living the “spirit” of the law is surrendering one’s heart to God and others. This surrender of living in a right relationship with God and others is an invitation to be fully alive. Let me repeat this. God’s law, which calls us to be fully alive, is the path of discipleship—it is the path to becoming our true selves. The words of God’s law are a lamp for our steps and a light for our path.
At the core of God’s law is living in right relationships with God and others—it’s a life style. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians makes the following statement regarding their faith, “We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you bear toward one another.” Would St. Paul use the same words to describe our faith?
Sincerely yours in Christ,