Daily Reflection
September 30th, 1999
by
Richard Super
Department of History
 
Nehemiah 8:1-12
Psalms 19:8-11
Luke 10:1-12

At first glance, todayís readings portray a Jesus whoís a bit difficult to recognize.  Here one reads of a Jesus laying down the law in no uncertain terms.  In sending out pairs of what today we might call advance men, he prescribes a whole list of explicit doís and doníts -- what to bring and what to wear, where to eat and sleep, what to say and when to be quiet.  He even instructs them how to act if they are shunned, including a warning of dire consequences.  Isnít this same Jesus of patient compassion who loved to tweak the noses of the Jewsí religious leaders for their rigid enforcement of the law to the neglect of the true faith, justice and love that comes from the heart?

Whatever Jesusí intent, the fact remains that the laws of God do exist.  The Jews of the Old Testament certainly had them; the first reading describes Ezra the scribe reading for hours to the people from the book of the law of Moses.  And Jesus didnít abolish law, only the way it was being followed.  The existence of laws, however, with all their prescriptions and penalties is sometimes hard for us to accept and respect.  The context of our society with its emphasis on individual freedom and its de-emphasis of personal responsibility prompts us to chafe at the imposition of laws which seem to be restrictions of our hallowed liberty and even an intrusion of government into our lives.

On further reflection, I realized that my mistake was in equating manís law with Godís law.  I forgot again what so much of recent liturgies sought to remind me, that Godís ways are not our ways.  However we view the political direction of the city, state or nation -- and the laws it produces -- those are not Godís laws.  Godís laws do not burden nor restrict;  they lighten and liberate.  They free me of my angers and anxieties.  They loosen my excessive attachments to property, possessions and sometimes even persons.  They lighten my load by throwing off my pride, my envy, my resentments.  And, above all, they beckon me to love my neighbor as myself.  In the end, I am truly free, free to be like the Israelites who, on hearing Godís law went out ďto celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.Ē    
 

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