“Obey the commandments that are written in the Book of this Law, and you shall return to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.”
The words of Moses, delivered to God’s people as they prepared to take possession of the Promised Land, made no false distinction between the demands of the Law and the Spirit in which we respond. For ancient Israel, the Law entrusted to Moses represented the revelation of God’s saving will for his people. As such it was regarded as an expression of love rather than an imposition.
The Book of Deuteronomy consistently emphasised inner renewal as the first demand of the Law. This spirit of loving obedience to the Law was enshrined in Israel’s greatest prayer.
The faithful Israelite, echoing the words of Deuteronomy, was to pray each day that he might love the Lord with his whole heart, his whole soul and his whole strength. He was to pray that the words of the law might be written on his heart, that they might be spoken at his resting and rising.
This ancient piety was far removed from attitudes that resent the demands of the Gospel as an unfeeling imposition. We should not be surprised. Our sinful pride will always seek to compromise the demands of God’s will. Moses emphasised that we do not stand alone in our struggle to remain faithful to the Law.
The Law is not beyond our strength. The demands it makes are accompanied with the grace that enables the heart to respond. The Law is not beyond our strength.
The Word that speaks to us is in our hearts for our observance. When we struggle with the demands of Christian life, let us turn to the Lord, trusting that he dwells in our hearts, that his law is not beyond our strength.
St Luke’s account of the encounter between Jesus and the lawyer emphasised the inner renewal that enables our fidelity to the will of God. The question of the lawyer demanded what was to be done in response to the law: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The response of Jesus emphasised the inner renewal that must precede all our doing. Echoing the words of Deuteronomy, Jesus replied: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”
If we are to respond to the will of God as a gift rather than as an imposition on our freedom, we must pray for the grace of inner renewal.
The parable of the Good Samaritan emphasises the futility of a law without conversion to the heart of God.
The outsider, left for dead by the roadside, was ignored by those whose very status proclaimed obedience to the Law of God. Priest and Levite passed by on the other side, forgetting the God of Israel who had heard the cry of his people in their distress. Their hearts were far removed from the God who did not ignore the cries to the stranger and the orphan in their midst. Only the Samaritan mirrored the response that the God of Israel had shown to his people in their hour of need.
The parable reveals in us the hardness of heart that cannot see beyond the demands of the law. Let us pray for a heart that rejoices to be in communion with the will of God.
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