Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
"However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children."
Jesus, the readings today bring several pictures to mind. A child with puckered lips being scolded by a parent. A teenager blurting out, "So I did it. Big deal. I’m not the only one who makes mistakes." An adult screaming at another adult with no sign of backing off. Something went wrong. Someone was wrong. But no immediate sign of admission. It’s tough to face up to being wrong, refusing to deal with the truth, forgetting one’s promise…anything that points out a weakness.
Jesus, the second thing that the readings bring to mind is that the law in itself isn’t going to do it for me. There has to be realization that behind the law is the love that is necessary to give meaning to the law. The scribes and the Pharisees were looking at externals most of all. You had hard words for them: they looked beautiful on the outside like the mausoleums but were full of dead men’s bones on the inside. I know how You, Jesus, found external conformity alone among the Scribes and Pharisees to be shallow.
Who among us would not wish that the anger, the pride, the selfishness, the greed, the jealousy and envy, and the whole host of other things would just go away. For many it is only laws and prohibitions, warnings and penalties that prevent injury and hurt to all of us. But to live by the law only, trying to set up a smoke screen so nobody sees me, is to be short sighted. Life is found in the underlying love that needs to permeate our thoughts, words and actions.
I have to admit from my own life that seeing the "whole picture" is my salvation. And You are part of that picture along with family, community and friends, as well as myself. You made it clear. You have asked each and all of us as a condition of our life here on planet earth "to love the Lord, our God, and to love our neighbor as our self."
Love is a two way street. I see it in the recognition of the love that comes to us from others; I see it in the love that goes out from us to others. To set up a one-way street is to block out either the love that comes to us or the love we offer to others. It does happen. I stand above everybody else, meaning that I’ll use you but I don’t need you. Or I get so dependent on others that my sense of self worth is practically zero. There is no self esteem.
Fullness of life comes with the ongoing increase of love on a two way street. Pay attention. I’ll be giving you a honk, and also expecting one from you!
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.