Delights in the Law of the Lord

A couple of the Advent passages from Isaiah* emphasize the theme of the first Psalm. Namely that the Lord guides those who cleave to Him. He guides us with a firm hand, with an interior light, with a Father’s wisdom. Only the guiding hand of God can get us to our true goal.

moses_ten_commandmentsOne of the main themes which Time’s Man of the Year sounds in his famous Apostolic Exhortation is this:

The Church accompanies people through life, helping everyone to find God and follow His plan. Almighty God has a plan for every human being. The plan for each of us is more beautiful and intricate than any human mind can grasp. It is not the Church’s job to have the plan. It’s the Church’s job to help everyone find the plan.

Hence the idea: The Catholic Church does not claim to have all the answers. Because we really don’t. Have all the answers. Only the Lord of infinite mystery has them all. All of us, Pope and bishops and priests and people—all of us have a pilgrim road to follow. All of us must open up our little minds to the light of God, which can put things into perspective in a way we never saw before.

But this is the opposite of moral relativism. To be guided by the loving hand of the Father means obedience. It means obedience to the most ancient truths. Moses received commandments on Mount Sinai from the same God of infinite love Who was born on Christmas morning and Who grew up to speak at length about how He keeps the fires of hell hot for the hypocrites and scoffers and abusers of the innocent.

Holy Father points out that there are paths down which the Church should not accompany people:

Spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom. Some people think they are free if they can avoid God; they fail to see that they remain existentially orphaned, helpless, homeless. They cease being pilgrims and become drifters, flitting around themselves and never getting anywhere. To accompany them would be counterproductive if it became a sort of therapy supporting their self-absorption and ceased to be a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father.

Fellow evangelists, let’s see God’s commandments, strict as they may be, for what they really are: A great gift our Father has given us to help us reach the goal of true, undying happiness. Let’s propose them to the world by our example and our words. They exist for this reason: With them, we can follow God’s plan for our lives. Without them…well, we do not want to go there.**

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* today’s Mass and this past Saturday’s, for example

** “Wailing, gnashing of teeth, and the worm never dies.”

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Serious Pancakes

pancakes-on-griddle

The first psalm echoes the words of the prophets, from Moses to Malachi to Zechariah: There are two paths. Leading to two ultimate destinies. The way up. And the way down.

We pray, with desperate insistence, that the Lord in His goodness will help us to stay on the right path. We pray that He will deliver us from our enemies who try to lead us down the wrong one. We rely on God’s grace and mercy. We have no hope without God’s help.

Martinsville uptownBecause Jesus has revealed the love of God to us, we have complete confidence in the divine assistance. We rest our souls in His provident care. And we can smile and laugh and make merry with light hearts, we can eat pancakes in a park in the rain at mid-day, because God is so good as to help us get to heaven, even though what we really deserve is to be left to flounder our way to hell.

Christian joy has nothing of the frivolous in it. The flower of our happiness in the Lord grows from the soil of the fundamental dead seriousness of being human.

Dogs can frolic and gambol their way through their lives, focusing exclusively on tennis balls and squirrels. Cats can nap away their time.

But being human means accepting the eternal drama of every decisive moment. In this moment, I can choose good or evil. And what I choose matters.

It is not too much to say that all the countless stars in the sky, and the vast oceans and prairies, and all the thousands of species of beetles, and everything else that makes up the material cosmos—it is not too much to say that all of it exists for one reason: so that at this moment I can choose good and reject evil. It exists so that I can choose to love selflessly and humbly and justly and honestly and follow Christ to heaven.

The moral beings of the earth, the ones with minds and free wills—we moral beings reign as the kings and queens of time and space. Each of us rules over a domain more precious than all the gold and diamond mines of Africa: my own choices. How I exercise my transcendent power to choose good and reject evil—how I exercise it means everything.

A person can know the light-hearted joy of Christ because he or she takes him- or herself seriously as a human being. A serious person takes this responsibility. What do we call this seriousness? I think we call it religion. I think we call it reality.

God made me, and I owe Him everything. He has taught me right from wrong, and I owe Him the careful study of all that He has taught. He made me free, and I owe Him good actions.