Flattery will get you, not everywhere, but at least inside the front door. We love to be appreciated for what we do. We can become embarrassed while being appreciated, but just below the blush is a rush of warmth. We, in this culture at least, are so scared of being proud or conceited. It all is a bit of tension for us, we love being recognized and even honored, but we do not wish to appear fishing for compliments or doing things for our own praise.
There is a spirituality within the Jesuits about “all for the greater glory of God.” How does this square with Jesus’ once having said that we should set our personal lamps high on a stand to be seen? We are not to hide our light, because our lights are gifts and when others see those gifts shining they will praise us and God without their necessarily knowing it. There is no pride in God’s gifts being seen by others, it would be pride to hide them under a bushel of humble.
This week, as we prepare to celebrate the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, we might pray to let His light shine and if others honor us, it can be a prayer of praise to the Source of those lights. Humble is being honest and if we are appreciated, honored, lauded and then suck it all in gratefully and prayerfully blow God’s praise, even silently, even if it looks like you’re being petted like the family kitten. The greater glory of God is the on-going display of creation, including our talents and great deeds.
The First Reading for this liturgy flows with particularity from the Ten Commandments which begins this section of the Book of Exodus. Three chapters before, the great Law of behavior is set down. There are laws about almost everything accompanied by the severe consequences upon their being violated. Everything is tended to so as to insure and preserve communal and cultic order.
Exodus opens with the history of Israel’s coming out of slavery in Egypt. There is the call of Moses at the Burning Bush. The Passover and wanderings in the desert are all told in fine detail. There are promises made, tested, and kept. God has proven faithful and so there is the necessity of laying down the proper way to respond to this fidelity. There will be the blessings of growth within family and field, but there has to also be order, reverence and care for these families and within the total community or nation. When these laws are not kept the prophets will speak out loudly and if not heeded there will be national disorder and shameful exiles and removal from land and family.
What we hear is but a very few verses concerning the caring for some others, namely the alien, the widow and orphan. There is the law about lending money without demanding interest. The compassion of God must extend to all particular aspects of family and communal life. These verses and many others go to form the proper way to relate to the saving and provident God. The people recall the goodness of God to them. These laws are meant to preserve that goodness. At the center of them all is the request to be reverent, respectful and caring for each other as God has been good and compassionate to each. These can be seen as expectations/ laws/ demands, but they are reminders of how God has treated creation, the nation Israel, and each person of the nation. They each are to do the same as a reminder of the good God’s care.
In today’s Gospel we hear more from the Pharisees who were silenced by last-weeks religio/political debate with Jesus. They are trying to trap Him by His Own words, just as we are, here in the United States, hearing candidates doing to each other. The religious leaders of the people want Jesus to pick out the very highest or greatest law of all the many contained in the tradition. Jesus lets them have it, clean, straight and simple.
The whole Law is summed up by our loving God, (what does that really mean?) and loving the neighbor as we are to love ourselves. I know what that means, but I don’t always like it. It is easier to act accordingly, or strictly interpreted. “Tell me what I have to do!” This exactness allows for wiggle-room. “You didn’t tell me I couldn’t do this, or had to do that.” Jesus is speaking this to His neighbors, the Pharisees. He knows they are threatened by His teachings, His ways, His increasing popularity, yet He reveals that He loves them as neighbors, as He loves Himself.
I recently read a book about five different love-languages. Basically, if I love you, it would help the relationship greatly if I knew what vocabulary you were using. Perhaps you experience love in the transmission of material gifts. Maybe kind words and encouraging words convey love to you. You might experience being loved by being touched physically. There are others, but we love being loved. We are able to hear it more clearly and personally when spoken according to our ways of receiving love flowing from our history and present condition. God knows our ways of being loved, summed up in the person of Jesus.
As religious persons we grow in love for ourselves by allowing God to speak our love-language. We are not appreciated by God, but loved! We have to learn the difference first off. The truth is that when I experience being loved, loving the neighbor flows more easily. Loving God is allowing God to be the Lover, Giver, Finder and Freer.
So Jesus, tell us more definitely what it means to love God. Tell us particularly how we are to love Your brothers and sisters, whom we sometimes allow to be our neighbors.
I make very bold to speak on behalf of Jesus now. “You will find it easier to love your neighbor when you love yourself because you believe and experience God’s love for you. Loving the mysterious God is learning how you need to be loved and allowing God to speak that love to you, right there. God’s love for you will freely flow through you and splash upon those around you. Do not keep looking for loop holes and particular definings for love of neighbor. Stop worrying about who is your neighbor. You are responsible for the receiving and distribution of God’s love when ever and where ever you can. Above all, remember, we cannot be commanded to love and receive love. We are invited to do what God knows is ultimately best for us. Loving is an invitation rather than a demand.”
“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering to God.” Eph. 5, 2
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