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Ordinary of the Mass
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In Psalm 147 we read:
“He has proclaimed His word to Jacob,
His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.
He has not done this for any other nation;
His ordinances He has not made known to them.”
The Jewish people were
justifiably proud of the Law of Moses. The Torah, contained in the first
five books of the Bible, codifies the principles of the Natural Moral Law,
reminds them that they must separate themselves from the heathen people who
surround their land, and describes the way in which they are to worship God
to the exclusion of the false gods of the gentiles.
The Natural Moral Law
is knowable by all thinking people—no one of any intellect thinks that
society can function if people deny their God and their parents and go about
stealing, beating, cursing, lying, and cheating one another—but it helpful
to have these ideas written down as Commandment, particularly for those who
God and His Law were so
glorious that when he returned from God’s presence on Sinai, Moses face
shined with a brilliant glow, so bright that Moses had to cover his face
with a veil whenever he spoke to the people!
It is to this blinding glow that Saint Paul referred in today’s Epistle.
Please understand that Paul is not speaking negatively about the Mosaic
Law—it was a necessary thing to prepare God’s people for the Redemption of
Jesus Christ and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. He certainly was not being
critical of the Commandments as a summary of the Natural Moral Law. He was
being critical of the “Judaizers” who claimed that to be a Christian, one
still had to subscribe to the merely ritual prescriptions of
the Mosaic Law—things like circumcision, kosher food, and the offering of
animal sacrifice. Paul is urging the Corinthians to accept the reality that
these purely outward and symbolic works had been replaced with the sacrifice
and sacraments of Jesus Christ, and with the real graces of the Holy Ghost.
The Mosaic Law was a
very long list of things that Jewish people were required to do—even down to
small details like how to ornament their garments with tassels and blue
Even life-long ethnic Jews had trouble observing all of the rules—Saint
Peter himself described them as a “yoke … which neither our fathers nor we
have been able to bear.”
To impose such a burden on Christians would just make them more likely to
transgression. In today’s Epistle referred to this burden as “the
ministration of condemnation.” If the Mosaic Law was glorious—and it was—so
much more glorious is the “ministration of justice.”
The conversion of the Corinthians was much more the work of God than it was
the work of Paul.
In Matthew 19, Jesus
answers the question “What must I do to gain eternal life with the usual
list of Commandments that must be kept:
Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not
steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness…. Honor thy father and thy mother:
and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
But, in today’s Gospel,
the answer is much broader:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole
soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as
This condensation of
the Law follows from the reality that those who truly love God and their
neighbor will have no motivation to break the enumerated Commandments which
express the Natural Law. It also follows that the children of the Church
receive an abundance of the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love—making
them to more easily love God and their neighbor.
Finally, Our Lord
identifies our neighbor for us in the well-known parable of “The Good
Samaritan.” Remember that the Samaritans were outcasts in Jewish society
(Just like the Publicans—the tax collectors of two Sundays ago). The
priests and the Levites were supposed to be the “good guys” but our Lord
turns things upside-down making the outcast Samaritan the hero of the
parable. The point here is that true neighborliness must not be defined in
terms of race, religion, or social status. We must recognize that all men
and women are our neighbors, and for the love of God we must love them as we
On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.
God has given us His statutes and His ordinances….
He has not done this for any other nation;
His ordinances He has not made known to them.