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Today's Good News Reflection

Making the scriptures meaningful for your everyday life.
by Terry Modica
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Good News Reflection

Today's Good News: Mercy is a dynamic response to the challenges of a changing world. If we want to imitate Christ, we have to become dynamic Christians.

Good News Reflection

Friday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time
July 19, 2019

Today's Saint Quote: Saint Arsenius the Great

Strive with all your might to bring your interior activity into accord with God, and you...

Today's Prayer:

Lord, may Love be the engine of my faith life. May I never lose sight of the love behind every Commandment. Help me always remain aware that the life of every human, whom You love so much, is worth more than any human law. Amen.

Today's Readings:

Exodus 11:10 -- 12:14
Ps 116:12-13, 15-18
Matthew 12:1-8
www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071919.cfm
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/2019/19_07_19.mp3

God desires mercy, not legalistic sacrifices

[ Listen to the podcast of this reflection ]

While Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a journalist asked him (on Nov. 30, 2002) about maintaining fidelity to old Church teachings while being open to the Holy Spirit for new interpretations. "How is it possible not to fall into the extremes of rigidity or rupture?" he asked.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI replied that although "fidelity and openness seem to exclude one another," they do not. He explained that authentic fidelity to the Church "is a dynamic fidelity. ... [and] participates in the dynamism of the person of Christ, who can open himself to the different challenges of reality, of the other, of the world, etc."

This dynamism -- the ability to adapt to life's challenges instead of remaining static -- is what shook up the safe little world of the Pharisees when Jesus replaced legalism with love. In the Gospel reading today, they didn't attack Jesus simply to give him a hard time. They truly believed that to be right with God, one must obey all the laws and rules literally and exactly. They also insisted that laws and rules were to be obeyed equally; rules that dealt with rituals were kept as rigidly as the laws that dealt with morality. So when Jesus broke some of the ritual laws, they could not imagine how he could be a holy man, let alone the long-awaited Messiah.

To explain his position, Jesus said: "It's mercy God desires, not sacrifice." It's a sacrifice to obey a law that's unpleasant. This is virtuous! However, forcing the disciples to go hungry on account of an over-ritualized definition of "work" would have been unmerciful. Jesus responded dynamically to the needs of the disciples based on the real purpose behind the commandment to rest on the Sabbath. What was the real purpose? Love! God's love for us! He knows that we need to rest and that without making it a commandment, those of us who work hard wouldn't get around to resting.

A sacrifice that's unloving is not what God wants. Remaining legalistically static when a situation calls for deeper examination and merciful consideration comes from a fear that any perceived disobedience is a violation of God's will and therefore deserves punishment. We forget to look at the loving purpose of the law.

The bottom line and original reason for every commandment of God and every regulation taught by the Catholic Church is love. However, this can be hard to see when we're relying on simple obedience to make us "good" enough for heaven, which will never happen. Thank God that Jesus is our Savior, not the law.

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath; his love has authority over the Sabbath. His love is the authority over all our religious laws, rules, and norms today. When they fail to convey the love of Jesus or they work against a person's eternal salvation, we have to rediscover their real intention and determine how to apply it to the current situation. This is how we remain faithful to the Church's teachings without being merciless.

Since the real intention of religious laws, rules, and norms is to draw us closer to God's love, it's important to investigate what the Church's teaching on it is. Then, if we are humble enough to be dynamic Christians, we will realize why it's good to obey it and our attitude about it will change. This is especially true of moral laws, which are never changeable.

And when others are slow in understanding the truth of the Church's teachings, we need to be patient with them mercifully. We will never change anyone's mind without explaining the truth with loving compassion -- and often the process takes quite a lot of time.

Mercy is a dynamic response to the challenges of a changing world. If we want to imitate Christ, we have to become dynamic Christians.



© 2019 by Terry A. Modica

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