The Gospel of Jesus (Aug. 30, 2015)

After six weeks with the Gospel of John, we return to Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is in conflict with the scribes and Pharisees, who insist on the primacy of law and order. While not condemning or challenging the Law, Jesus says that it has to be put into perspective. It’s a means to an end, not the end itself.

Some folks, however, feel a strong attraction for a religion of laws and regulations. The question is often: “Is this a sin?” “Is it a mortal sin or ‘only’ a venial sin?”

But these are not the questions to ask. Our real concern should be: “Is this a loving thing to do?” There may or may not be any commandment or regulation about it but if it is not a word or an act of love, then it is not Christian. It is possible to keep all the laws and rules perfectly (as pharisees of all kinds do) and yet be very far from the spirit of Jesus and the Gospel. The law-keeper is primarily concerned with “saving his soul”, with “being in the state of grace” (whatever that means!).

Obviously wherever people have to work together, we have to have rules. But they are only means to help us work together more smoothly. Once the rules start dictating to us then we’re in trouble. Laws are meant not to restrict but to maximize the freedom of individuals and groups without detriment to others. We often cuss the traffic lights when they turn red against us but we cuss even more when they break down because of the chaos that ensues. Right?

The Gospel of Jesus is a magnificent testimony to human freedom. It challenges you and me to discern for ourselves just how we can best love and serve Jesus and our neighbor in a given circumstance. It calls for a great deal of honesty, integrity and a high level of real freedom, the freedom to choose what is good, what is better, what is more loving. The Gospel is not a code of laws. It provides a vision of a truly human life lived for God among other people. It is focused on relationships rather than individual actions.

The Gospel says: “Be God’s smile for someone today!”

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