Father David's Reflection for Thursday of Week Twenty-Six (Ordinary Time)
The Responsorial Psalm is a foundation for living: “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart” (Psalm 19).
In Nehemiah 8: 1-12 the foundation of the new Jewish nation was laid. The layman Zerubbabel, with Haggai and Zechariah, had rebuilt the temple. Nehemiah, another layman, rebuilt the walls. Finally, the priest-scribe Ezra got the people to accept the Torah (God’s Law) as the constitution of the restored community.
These men were all leaders. Each used his particular talents to bring a restored Jewish society into being. The temple spoke of God’s grandeur and his presence among the people (Psalm 65:4). The walls spoke of security and peace (Psalm 122:7). And observance of the law promised a wholesome, happy life blessed by God. That is why the promulgation of the Law was a time for celebration and rejoicing. “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.”
Keeping God’s law always brings joy. There may be religious people who are joyless, but if so, it is a sure sign they do not understand the laws they think they are keeping. God’s laws are the “instructions on the bottle,” the “operator’s manual” given to us by the Designer of human nature to show us how to use all his gifts to best advantage. We may fail at times to keep God’s laws, but only a fool doesn’t take them seriously. “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” Disregarding them brings misery.
In Luke 10: 1-12 Jesus sends his disciples out to teach his New Law for living on the level of God, which is what “graced life” is. He warns them that not everyone will welcome the message. And he seems to assume that a whole town or community will accept or reject his words together. The truth is, most people predictably follow the trends of their peer group. We influence one another. This shows the power of leadership, for good or evil. Leaders are those who do not automatically follow. They even reject religious conformism to follow the authentic way of the ever-renewing Church, which is a way of constant, personal rediscovery. Conformist Christianity is a contradiction in terms. The rule for leaders is:
Whoever keeps these commandments and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom….
But this must be joined to:
Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven… brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Matthew 5:19; 13:52).
The combination gives life. “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart” when kept as they should be.
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Seek to know God’s heart, and keep his law accordingly