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Commandments…

April 13, 2017

Well, here we are again – the week that changed the world. Holy Week. In the past, I have mused, and shared thoughts of faith in a variety of ways: in works of art, with thought-provoking Scripture, or discussion  of the traditions from across two millennia. So instead of inundating my many Facebook friends with a barrage of images and such, I thought just one subtle prompt might do.


I was brooding over one of my favorite works of art, Judas Conscience, painted in 1891 by Nikolaj Ge. It was that time, I think, when Judas turned away from the fellowship, from his brethren. And I picture him, turning, in the dark now, and wrestling with regret – maybe for a moment, maybe for an eternity – on that fateful evening. Just yesterday, he went to betray him. Tradition calls that day Spy Wednesday – for the actions of a traitor.  Scripture reads, “They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.” – Matthew 26:16.

For all the effort put into being Christians – ‘little Christs’ – don’t we put in a whole lot of effort into not being one? Like the times I justify not loving my enemy because I bring food to the pantry. Or the times we believe in Church teaching, except for ____ (fill in the blank). We all do it. We all take the silver in one form or another. For Judas it was too much; he hung himself. He died in sin instead of seeking forgiveness. Jesus went to the cross knowing it would serve as a lesson regardless of what Judas decided. Die to pride, or rise in repentance. 

 I choose to rise. But the trick is to recognize that we all do it. On a micro scale. On a grand scale (God forbid!). But do the best you can each day. Then get up and do it again the next. Remember, heaven celebrates the conversion of one sinner, over the 99 saved!  This is the secret of Christianity: not to ‘be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect’ – because we could never be perfect – but to merely just try. And then try again tomorrow. Eliminate one fault best you can, then work on another.


Tonight? Tonight begins the Triduum, the Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. That last supper. Maybe you can attend. Maybe it is outside of your faith tradition. Maybe your faith hasn’t happened yet. But if it comes to you, read the Scriptures pertaining to this night, of this week, that changed the whole world. Not the whole Bible, but read Matthew chapter 26, especially verses 17-35. Read Mark chapter 14, likewise verses 12-31. Luke chapter 22, 7-38 (especially 35-38 in the Time of Crisis, like these days!).


Ah, then there is John. Save time for this, the Book of Glory, chapters 13-17. Read it, feel the emotion and passion. So many things happen this night that echo on through the millennia. John 13:33-35 sums up what we need to do each and every day, “Where I go you cannot come, so now I say it to you, I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love one another. John writes αγαπάτε, agapate – should love. Agape love is the highest form, as Strong defines, to love properly, to prefer, to love, for those who believe (or those who want/need to), preferring to live through Christ, embracing God’s will . To be as God is: for He is love. That is a lot packed into one little word. 

Aquinas says Love is ‘to will the good of the other, as other.’ To wish one well, not as a means, but as an end. We could use some of that; we could use some of that today. All around us is the opposite of love – fear. This morning the heartbreaking stories in Portland of a 17 year old shot to death in a park – for a belt.  A troubled father taking his life and those of his 8 and 11 year old daughters with him. Assasinating the character of an airline passenger who was brutally drug off. Political nausea in the United States from all perspectives. Children, in Syria, on the television after they had been chemically gassed to death. War. Hate. Famine. Injustice.

Fear.


Today is called Maundy Thursday. In tonight’s Mass, it is sung as the Gospel Acclamation: Mandatum novem do vobis, dicit Dominus, ut diligatis invicem, sicut dilexi vos – I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: Love one another as I have loved you. Traditionally, I have taken that command to maybe share with others a meal or buy some groceries for them, or in some way let people know I am thinking of them and hoping for them. I have a sibling courageously fighting their leukemia. I have a relative imprisoned for a terrible crime. Overcoming fear, and worry, and loathing are a challenge, I get it. But today, I understand my commandment to mean this: to plead with everyone who reads this blog post, share it with everyone they know, and then go, and do one simple act of love in the world. I plead. Love conquers evil every time. Perhaps not in a way we expect or understand. But go out and love someone today.


We have this commandment before us. Love…

Papa

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