Friday, July 24, 2009

The Law Of The LORD Is Perfect

First Reading

Exodus 20:1-17

In those days: God delivered all these commandments:

"I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.

You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished
those who take his name in vain.

"Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested.

That is why the LORD has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

"Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you.

"You shall not kill.
"You shall not commit adultery.
"You shall not steal.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,
nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,
nor anything else that belongs to him."


Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.

R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.

R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.

R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.

R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.


Matthew 13:18-23

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Hear the parable of the sower.

The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it,
and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,he immediately falls away.

The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.

But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold."

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Today’s First Reading presents the law of the Lord as he gave it to Moses on Mount Sinai. You may have noticed that the first three are quite a bit longer than the form in which they are usually found. The Responsorial sings the praise of God’s law. In the Gospel, Jesus presents the Parable of the Seed. Matthew reminds us that often the word, which we may have received with joy, does not take root in our hearts, either due to our lack of understanding, or because the fruit of the word is choked off by worldly anxiety and the lure of riches.

What is there about the Decalogue that makes it difficult to understand? Could it be, as some have said, that the Commandments were addressed to nomadic tribal community, and are not relevant to the educated urban dweller of the 20th and 21st century? Surely that can’t be the case, for the law of the Lord is perfect; the precepts of the Lord are right, and the command of the Lord is clear. God’s truth is there, but we must receive it with open eyes and open hearts.

“I, the Lord, am your God…You shall not have other gods besides me…I am a jealous God, inflicting punishment…but bestowing mercy to…those who love me and keep my commandments.” There is a pleading quality to these words. I am your God, please listen to me, take me seriously. I will not abandon you. I desire you.

These laws, commandments, were addressed to a community attempting to separate themselves from other tribal communities. They were the Chosen and invited to respond accordingly. These commandments were meant to be encouragements from He who Is – this is how one who is in a loving relationship with the LORD would want to respond to that gratuitous relationship. One would want to love and be faithful to one’s only God. All, including the LORD, recognized the garden of gods available and vying for attention. Still today, we are aware of the garden of gods vying for attention and adoration – money, fame, success, status, drugs, sex, body image and all manner of addictions.

We hear these same pleading sentiments – today, in the 21st century. I am your God. I am a jealous God. I love you. God longs for me. When I am aware of being involved in an intimate and loving relationship with God, these commandments fall away. As Matthew suggests, the temptations become more subtle as I grow in spiritual maturity. I no longer use or need the Ten Commandments with which to examine my conscience. As I move into deeper intimacy with the Lord, Spirit, God, the Lover – I am invited to examine my consciousness, to examine my day, my life, my relationships, in terms of, in light of my relationship with God. My relationship with God becomes foundational to all my other relationships – with family, friends, children, spouse and even professional relationships. Gradually, as I become more intimate with Jesus, with the Father, with the Spirit, I become more and more conscious of God’s loving desires for me and of God’s presence in all my relationships. Gently, God reveals my own faults, shortcomings, wounds in need of healing and tendencies to inflict pain on myself or others.

As I grow in intimacy with God, I grow in self awareness and grow in loving relationship with others.

Once we have heard the Word which summons us to the way of life of our Lord, let us come and allow ourselves to be made perfect. Let us set as a law for ourselves the imitation of the holy ones, saying “Why not become like them, seeing that they once were like us?” Listen to Paul who says, “I have despised all that is visible … and I consider as dung all the gain that will remain behind when I die, and not accompany me to the world of truth and of glory. “Become like me (Phil 3:17) since I was once like you. “ You see, if we want, we can become like Paul.
The Book of Steps (AD 400)

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