Sunday, November 4, 2018

It is God's Universe or it is None

4 November 2018 – Bruder Klaus
Dt 6:2-6
Heb 7:23-28
Mk 12:28b-34

Praised be Jesus Christ!

I suppose there are any number of ways to formulate the question, but it is important to recognize that countless good people, even in our very secularized world today, are asking in one form or another this fundamental question: “Which is the high road to Heaven?” Well, maybe they are not asking it in those very words, but I think to say it that way is to say more than by asking, “What are my duties as a baptized Catholic?”  Alternatively you could ask, “Where is Church, living and saving people, to be found?” or “What does it mean to be a real believer and is that what is central to the mission of the Catholic Church here on earth?”

The scribe in today’s passage from St. Mark’s Gospel asked Jesus, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Perhaps that was not complete enough as a question and hence the ensuing dialogue with Jesus, which led to the Lord’s praise of the man and his clear understanding of God’s will for us in this world.

“And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’"

For today anyway, let us stick to the formulation I suggested! “Which is the high road to Heaven?” In line with the Scripture readings for today, Old Testament or New Testament, we could answer very simply and say, “Keep the two great commandments and you will certainly be on the right track!”

The Book of Deuteronomy promises long life and prosperity for those who obey God’s commands or rather who follow the first and greatest of all the commandments:

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”

That is solid Old Testament teaching about the demands of righteousness, to which we add the words of Jesus from the Gospel:

“The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

In fact, most of us struggle our whole life long and still come up short when it comes to whole-hearted love of God and neighbor. If we are of good will, we try, but invariably we also fail and so we must try again. We often sin against charity in bigger or smaller ways, we dutifully confess our sins and failings, and with the grace of the Sacrament of Penance, the strength of the Holy Eucharist, with the intercessory aid of God’s Angels and Saints, we grow in strength and wisdom, progressing along the road that, please, God, will lead us home to Heaven.

“Which is the high road to Heaven?”

I am guessing that maybe a hundred years ago, perhaps even sixty years ago, what I am saying about the absolute priority of living out the consequences of faithfulness to the two great commandments was obvious to most Catholics. Today, for better or for worse, we need to talk through with people the notion that nothing is more important than living in love. I do just that by striving in everything to fulfill the reason for which I was created, namely: to know, love and serve God in this life, so that I might be able to be happy with Him in Heaven. It seems people today need convincing of that truth. For joy’s sake and forever, self-sacrificing love trumps/outweighs/ outranks/outclasses any possible benefit, or enhancement of the quality of life that some civil authority or we might seek or claim for ourselves.

Choosing joy, choosing freedom at its best, means betting on or committing to the Only One, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. My dignity, my joy cannot come from me without God first. If I am not rooted in the Creator and in His Will for the world, then I am without a lifeline, I am doomed to perish, along with everything else which passes.

“that you … may fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.”

The Almighty is present and active in His universe. God’s will, His Law is supreme. The divine will was, it is and shall be forever, unchanging, as is He our Creator from the beginning, our Redeemer and Lord. You cannot legalize things that are contrary to God’s Law. Sadly, even in so-called democracies laws are made without reference to the truth. The truth is that the human person is inviolate from the first moment of existence in the womb until natural death. The truth is that marriage, the stable and faithful union of one man and one woman, is by God’s Will where children are to be conceived, born and properly raised. By God’s Will, it is not I who can determine my last day on this earth. We cannot set the limits of the cup of suffering either for ourselves or for others. Heaven or Paradise is not to be found in the here and now. Through Adam’s sin, we share his valley of tears and place our hope in Christ’s saving Cross.

Setting my own rules and priorities without reference to the truth is a tangled web depriving me of genuine and lasting freedom in this life. It is a dead end. It keeps me from the glory that is my destiny. “Which is the high road to Heaven?” Obedience to God’s commands! His perfect love would require nothing less of us and in exchange gifts us with happiness.

“The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”

Praised be Jesus Christ!


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