“He Sends forth his command to the earth; swiftly runs his word!” Ps 147.15
We have moved into the heart of the Lenten Season in the liturgy. Last Sunday, the Third Sunday of Lent, any parish that is planning to baptize a new Christian over the age of seven years at Easter will have prayed the first Rite of Scrutiny. The Scrutiny Rites are designed by the Church to assist the Catechumens in ferreting out their habits and patterns of sin – that which is death dealing in their lives. Anything that keeps the Catechumen from seeking and finding the true plan, desire or will of God for him or her.
Those who are already baptized and practicing the faith are also challenged to seek out God’s Will and lead a more disciplined life – that is a way of life characteristic of a true disciple of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel is one of several summaries of the way to hear and obey God’s will.
Moses challenges his listeners to hear and obey God’s commands, “Never letting them slip from your memory as long as you live.” But it is not just the words that we are to hear but the intention behind the words. Thus Jesus’ interpretation of the commands becomes the “New Law” – a law not designed to replace the Decalogue but to fulfill its meaning more perfectly for those who choose to follow him.
In today’s liturgy we don’t hear what the specific commands are, but we are challenged to embrace God’s desire whatever it demands of us. The liturgy challenges us to open-hearted listening as we proceed through the rest of this season of conversion and growth. For me, to listen is to stop planning, to stop being certain, to stop telling others, to set aside distractions of media, mail, and phone, even to stop reading and to sit quietly and scrutinize my heart’s choices. In such a circumstance the first thing that occurs for me is a whirlwind of conflicting demands, memories, responsibilities, and unfinished tasks. As I work at sorting and setting aside, only then can I begin to hear the still small voice of God’s desire – the meaning of the law in my daily life that gives direction and clarity to choices; That serves as water to my thirst for meaning and joy.
It is a discipline in contemporary culture to shut off, turn away and seek the stillness, but it is only when that discipline of dwelling briefly in the desert is inserted into my day that the iota of the Law makes sense and leads me to the “green pastures” of right decision and peace.
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