God’s Compassion and Law

tanner-annunciation

In our first reading at Holy Mass on Sunday, we will hear the Lord declare, “I am compassionate.” Almighty God’s compassion towards us moved Him to become one of us. The Word became flesh. [Spanish]

The Incarnation of the eternal Son revealed to us human beings the immeasurable depths of God’s compassion for us. He willed to share everything with us. In fact, it is the coming of Christ that teaches us what compassion really is. The love God has for the human race–that is compassion. Christ crucified–that is compassion.

To believe in this–that is Christianity. To share in the mystery of God’s compassion toward us, the mystery of Jesus’ life. That is the faith and the life of the Church–to believe in and share in God’s Incarnation as a human being.

We cannot do this as isolated individuals. The virus continues to isolate many of us physically. But it need not isolate anyone from the Christian faith. Someday, please God, we will all find ourselves together again, in person, celebrating the mystery of faith, the Mass. May that day come sooner, rather than later.

Head of a Pharisee by Leonardo da Vinci
da Vinci “Head of a Pharisee”

But in the meantime, we commune with Christ, and with each other, by believing. Wherever we find ourselves, right here, right now, let’s believe. God is compassionate. God did become one of us, to free us from sin and death and give us a share in His eternal life. We believe it. Let’s make sure we never let a Sunday go by without reciting the Creed and meditating on it.

In the gospel reading at Sunday’s Mass, we will read about how the Pharisees came to the Incarnate Word, and one of them addressed Him as “Teacher.” To use that title implied great respect. It acknowledged a rabbi’s learning, his wisdom, and his holiness. You called someone “teacher,” and then asked a question about God, because you wanted to learn something.

The Pharisee, however, addressed Jesus as “teacher” without really meaning it. That group of Pharisees only intended to set Jesus up. They did not have any real respect for Him as a teacher. To the contrary, they despised Him.

The scholar asked, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” But he had no real interest in Jesus’ answer to that question. In fact, these Pharisees had grown cynical about the Law of Moses.

The Lord had established a covenant with His people by giving the Law on Mount Sinai. The Law of Moses contained the ordinances that could bring peace to the people as a community, and interior peace for each individual. All you have to do is strive to follow the commandments.

But this group of Pharisees had turned the whole thing on its head. They had turned God’s straightforward Law into a complicated burden that subjugated people–subjugated people to the Pharisees themselves. The crooked Pharisees wanted to retain their wrongful authority over consciences. They could see that Jesus spoke to liberate us from precisely such a burden, by offering Divine Mercy.

Christ offers mercy, so we need not tie our consciences up in knots, trying to prove to God how righteous we are. Rather, we can live in the truth that we are the sinners for whom Jesus died. Interior peace comes from living in that truth–which gives us a fighting chance at actually following the commandments that Jesus said are the greatest.

Because we believe in the Christ, we can revere Him as our teacher, and we can seek instruction from Him with a real willingness to learn. We know that we don’t know what to do. We know that we don’t know the greatest commandment. We have failed to obey God over and over again. We deserve punishment, but we get a fresh start instead.

So we can listen. He teaches us. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind.” Forget yourself. Forget having power over anyone else. Forget having prestige and the honor of men. Forget comfort and “the finer things.” The finest thing is God. The only one with any real power–God. The only truly honorable one. God.

Love Him. Love the unseen Answer to every question and every problem. Cling by faith to the greater, more-beautiful Good. Then love your neighbor as yourself, with the same compassion that God showed us when He died on the cross for us.

Sharing in Christ’s mystery means laying down our lives without a second thought. Why not? What do we need our lives on earth for, anyway–if not to give Him glory, by loving with His divine love?

Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law? He spoke the answer, then He showed it. The eternal Law is: the love in the Heart of Jesus Christ crucified.

One thought on “God’s Compassion and Law

  1. Thank you as always for a wonderful homily. Whenever I read or hear about the Pharisees, I always think of the bishop and other members of the hierarchy…how unfortunate!
    On a happier note, I so much love the painting of the Annunciation. I have seen it before but it never ceases to “call” to me…beautiful. Thank you for sharing it again.
    Judy R.

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