Leave your offering at the altar

POST BY PGallagher

Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart.[1] 

God teaches us to obey his commands and to do so with our heart.  We are to be law-abiding not reluctantly but with a love of the law. We also love the law-giver who schools our heart to make us observant of the letter and the spirit of his law.  Speak, Lord your servant is listening: you have the message of eternal life [2].   Our creator is communicating with us and showing us how to conduct ourselves. We are learning about all that God has prepared for those who love him [3].  So as to be able to live with him forever, we are allowing ourselves to be trained by him in his way.

They are happy those who do his will, seeking him with all their hearts [4].  The Lord’s commands are patterns for happiness.  The joy that is in progress in the search for God is also in the thorough assimilation of the way of life which he teaches.   Sometimes what is asked of us is not our own first desire. The grace of God not only helps us to do what is difficult but also gradually transforms what we want.  If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power [5].  To seek God with all one’s heart is to discover among many other things that he has made us to be like him.   He draws us to share his vision of our good.  This is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began [6]. In directing our lives and having a will for how we are to be he shows us himself and ourselves. We are humbled by our littleness beside our creator but also inspired by his greatness and the great hope he has for us. These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God [7].

The Holy Spirit strengthens us with knowledge of God and understanding of what he requires of us.  Through the Spirit we also acquire enough self-understanding to make feasible for us a life lived in accordance with the divine will. For vast is the wisdom of the Lord: he is almighty and all seeing [8].  His seeing everything is more than surveillance.  The loving gaze of our Father follows what we do so as to assist us and smooth our path back towards him.  This assistance extends to our hopes and intentions as well as our deeds.  The grace of God enables us freely and knowledgably to choose a path that is gradually being revealed to us.  Sometimes our progress is rather plodding.  We are tempted to turn back.  Attractive avenues open up which could divert us from the road along which God urges us to travel. May my footsteps be firm to obey your statutes [9].

There is depth in obedience to God’s known will and in responsiveness to what he is presently teaching us. The Holy Spirit confers understanding of God [10], insight into ourselves and deep wisdom for the challenges we confront.  This depth is sometimes in thoroughness.  Jesus teaches reminds us of the law and then encourages us to keep it wholeheartedly and in detail. You have learned how it was said to our ancestors [11]…. But I say this to you [12]…   We are commanded to obey some particular precept and also to go deeper by practising other related good thoughts, words and deeds. The law forbids, for example, murder but Jesus asks us for a deeper goodness which certainly renounces murder but also avoids hostility and seeks reconciliation and harmony. Come to terms with your opponent in good time [13].

The Lord leads us towards depth of virtue.  For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven [14].  Whatever other people are like, we are being called to behave well and to be glad to do so.  The disciple’s profound virtue is righteousness, justice and goodness.  We are to prepare to live with God forever by being like him now.   The all-seeing creator who notes our every action also follows our thoughts and intentions.  He longs to find us perfect as he is perfect [15].  Even to contemplate wrong-doing is already to go along with it [16]He never commanded anyone to be godless [17]

The love of God in which we are being schooled includes renunciations, depth of virtue and rigorous self-scrutiny.  We are being taught a devoted preoccupation with the One who made us, perfects us and is drawing us to himself.  Open my eyes that I may consider the wonders of your law [18].  The completion[19] and achievement of the purpose[20] of the law in which the Lord rejoices relates to a wonderful discovery which we make as, under grace, we live as he shows us how.   We find we are becoming like an offering brought to the altar.  In God’s presence all the goodness we need is provided and all the forgiveness and reconciliation which once were lacking now surround us in abundance.

Homily by Peter Gallagher

[1]     Psalm (119) 118.34

[2]     1 Samuel 3.9 and John 6.68

[3]     1 Corinthians 2.9

[4]     Psalm (119) 118.2

[5]     Ecclesiasticus 15.15

[6]     1 Corinthians 2.7

[7]     1 Corinthians 2.10

[8]     Ecclesiasticus 15.18

[9]     Psalm (119) 118.5

[10]    1 Corinthians 2.10 even the depths of God

[11]    Matthew 5.21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43 dealing with murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, vengeance and enmity

[12]    Matthew 5. 22, 28, 32, 34, 39 and 44 where Jesus urges conduct even more virtuous than the precept

[13]    Matthew 5.25

[14]    Matthew 5.20

[15]    Matthew 5.48

[16]    Matthew 5.29

[17]    Ecclesiasticus 15.20

[18]    Psalm (119) 118.18

[19]    Matthew 5.17

[20]    Matthew 5.18