The Whole Law
Monday August 1, 2022, 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Year CII
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today: Jeremiah 28:1-17; Psalm 119:29-102; Matthew 14:13-21
The Responsorial Psalm begs: “Teach me your laws, O Lord” (Psalm 119).
In Jeremiah 28:1-17 Jeremiah’s conflict with the prophet Hananiah reminds us of the painful truth that even among those who have taken up the loving work of ministry in the Church there can be disagreement and outright hostility. How do we know who is right?
God’s action against Hananiah teaches all of us as ministers to call our own teaching into question. The Holy Spirit’s work is unity. If we speak up against another voice in the Church, it should be with fear and reluctance, and only after the “search and research” of examining our own heart and going deeply into whatever doctrine is in question. In the Responsorial Psalm we find signs to look for in ourselves to know whether we are authentic:
1. Does God’s law give me delight? (v. 7, 11, 14, 24, 35, 74, 79, 103)
2. Do I meditate on God’s word deeply? (v. 15, 97-100, 104, 105).
3. Am I looking for boundaries or for the boundless mystery of who God is? (v. 18, 20, 27, 32-37, 41, 81, 82, 96, 120, 123).
4. Do I focus on keeping laws or on God’s “steadfast love,” seeking relationship with him? (v. 58-59, 94, 122, 124, 146).
5. Do I keep laws for approval, or do I make responsible decisions in applying law, standing up for the truth sometimes even against authorities? (v. 19, 45, 4, 134, 157, 161).
6. Do I interpret every law in the light of its goal and Jesus’ desire that we should have “life to the full”? (v. 45 bis, 50, 56, 93, 172, 175).1
7. Do I interpret laws in the context of the overall theology and tradition of the Church, being so “Catholic” that I sometimes “have more understanding than all my teachers” because I look farther back than they do? (v. 42, 44, 53, 90-91, 98-100, 111, 130, 139, 142, 143, 144).
8. Am I committed purely to truth as such, listening to people, not just for errors to condemn? (v. 68, 70, 78).
9. In my professed loyalty to Church teaching, do I “pick and choose”? e.g. by focusing on obvious moral laws and “housekeeping” rules instead of on challenging statements about social justice or wealth? (v 101, 113).
10. Do I give my primary allegiance to the truth as such, not to any “party” in the Church? (v. 63, 69 bis).
Finally, do I keep begging with humility, “Teach me your laws, O Lord”?
In Matthew 14: 13-21, when John is murdered Jesus “withdraws” with his disciples to a “lonely place where they could be by themselves.” The first way to cope with persecution is by prayer.
But the crowds follow, and Jesus follows the rule he gave us, “If you love me, feed my sheep!” This rule must govern every pastoral policy and decision. It is the touchstone of authentic ministry. 2
In this Gospel passage “feeding the sheep” is a sign of Eucharist and a preview of Christ’s triumph at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” As both the support and fruit of ministry, Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Christian life.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Look for God in laws and see laws only in God.
2John 21: 15-17.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry