Friday, October 31, 2008

They were observing him carefully

Today's Gospel tells us that the Pharisees, "they", "were observing him carefully." On the surface this sounds like a good thing. It sounds as though they are watching him, taking note, questioning, discerning, and learning. However, if we read carefully, we will see that their hearts are not open to what He says or does. Rather, "they were observing him carefully" so that they might trap Him with the law. They were waiting on Him to trip and fall. They were observing him carefully so as to pounce and destroy.

The Pharisees were so concerned with the letter of the law that they were blind to the spirit of the law. They were observing the law carefully but not with their hearts and certainly not with the heart of God.

We too do this. We too sometimes observe the laws of God, and the laws of the Church out of habit or obedience rather than with a joyful heart. Is our Sunday obligation just that? Obedience is good but if it is not an obedience of heart as well as mind and body it is incomplete. Isn't that what Jesus commanded in last Sunday's Gospel - You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. We cannot do this if we are merely obeying the law. God desires sons, not servants!

How then, can we observe the loving rules of our Father with a son's heart? We can do this first of all through grace given to us in the sacraments. We can also depend on the intercession of our brothers and sister who are with the Father interceding on our behalf. On the Eve of All Saints we must remember that we are not alone and that we have recourse to the host of Heaven who cheer us on to that goal. That is their wish for that is the desire of God our Father, that we be with Him and them.

In the first reading we see this clearly. Here we find our elder brother Paul praying for us. Here we find Paul entreating the Father on our behalf asking for the grace to enable us to not merely see the laws and act on them but to love them. "I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it... And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ..." Paul want us to "observe him carefully" but with the heart of a son or daughter, not with the heart of a servant merely obeying the law of a master.

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