Thursday, Week Seven of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 16) provides deep support for loyalty: “Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.”
In Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 we see Paul uniting in himself fidelity to the charismatic and to the juridical. He follows the voice of the Spirit, but insists on his obedience to the Law.
We may be shocked to hear Paul claiming, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee.” We need to remember that the Pharisees began as an authentically Jewish reform movement based on fidelity to the Law. This was what God called for constantly through the prophets. It became corrupted only gradually, as it degenerated into narrow legalism. A focus on law observance that does not pass through contemplation of the mind and heart of God is deadly. But law observance as such is good. It is fidelity to God, and Paul claimed it for himself. He also claimed fidelity to the Spirit who can never be restricted to laws. In this he embodied Christianity.
Christianity is essentially the union of the human and the divine. Laws belong to the human side. Laws are the infinite, indivisible, and ultimately undifferentiated Wisdom and Love of God translated into finite human concepts; broken down into particular directions to guide concrete human actions. Laws are by nature “defined” by fines, limits, specifications. We must keep in mind that they are always imperfect translations of the Infinite, and we must observe them in conscious submission to the Infinite Truth and Goodness they can never completely express. We ob-serve laws, but we only serve the Spirit.
The prayer that accompanies the mingling of water (for humanity) and wine (for divinity) during the Presentation of Gifts captures this:
By the mystery of [the mingling of] this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
Jesus, who was above the Law, subjected himself to the Law, but without contradiction, because he was the Law made flesh. When we who have “become Christ” by Baptism follow the Spirit, it is the spirit of the law we follow. This is not to “abolish the law but to fulfill it. This is our mission as prophets. Only God can keep us authentic. “Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.” 1
Once mixed, the water and wine are indistinguishable, as were humanity and divinity in the actions of Jesus. In John 17: 20-26 Jesus prays that, in spite of the incompleteness of every human insight, opinion or perception of value; in spite of the incompleteness of all human expressions of doctrine and the unintentional exclusivity of all human laws — that cannot explicitly adapt themselves to every exception or particular application — his Church will be one: “Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you.” The human inevitably tends to divide us. The divine unites us. In Christ both are one.
Initiative: Follow the Spirit in a spiritual observance of all laws..
1 John 14:6; Matthew 5:17.