In the Hebrew Scriptures there were 613 laws. NOBODY, not even the Scribes and Pharisees, were going to get this right. So, in today’s Gospel, when questioned by the lawyer, Jesus doesn’t change the law. He changes the focus of the law. He changes the perspective and the starting point of the law. He starts with “spirituality” (“Love God …”) then moves to the heart (“Love your neighbor….”).
It’s not something that you can grab, or a place you get to, or a state you can achieve.
It’s not a checklist or a “to-do” list or a strategy or a plan. Go this route and you can become like the Pharisees and really get caught up in the minutiae of the rules and regulations of “The Law”. Go this route and you can also totally miss what God really wants to give you. Here’s where “leaving room for the Holy Spirit” comes in.
It’s not about a list . It is more of a journey, or a way, which you live. It’s about your whole being. It’s more about a lifestyle or a “promise” to live a certain way and be a certain way. It’s finding a “Rule of Benedict” for yourself and for your family that will mysteriously (and often in an ad-hoc way) form you and how this ultimately affects the people, and the arena around you, in a positive way.
Fr. Bob Bedard was the former Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ottawa City. The parish was struggling and Fr. Bob, by his own admission had no idea what to do to turn the situation around. After several months of prayer, Fr. Bob kept hearing the same message: “Give me permission.” The concept seemed strange to Fr. Bob and even stranger to the parishioners at St. Mary. But God keep saying, “Tell them to give me permission. Give me permission in the parish. Give me permission in their individual lives. You give me permission, and I’LL MOVE! I’ll move in the parish, I’ll move in their lives. And I’ll move in a big way!
As Fr. Bob kept preaching the message, the turnaround at St. Mary’s began. Today, even though St. Mary is located in an economically borderline area of Ottawa, it is an active and thriving parish. Fr. Bob was later moved to found an order of priests called “The Companions of the Cross” which saw a tremendous growth in vocations to the priesthood.
In reflecting on his experience at St. Mary’s, Fr. Bedard indicated that this type of way or “rule” was certainly fluid (you can’t “box in” the Holy Spirit) but it did have some guides, landmarks and some steps. The (crucial) precursor Step was the recognition that God loves us FIRST! The initial move is His.
The next step – Step One – is that someone needs to “Proclaim the Gospel,” asking people to hand their lives over to the Lord (In other words, “giving God permission”). This preaching is done in such a way as to elicit a response. But the response is not a call to become more active. It’s not “come and do” but:
- “Come and see”
- “Come and be with me”
- “Come and experience”
- “Come and receive first”
In Step Two, the hearer responds to God’s love and God’s invitation to a deeper relationship with God.
In Step Three, God touches the person’s mind and heart and gently and lovingly moves the person, from within, to positively move aspects of the person’s life in a different, and better, direction.
And how do you know when you’re getting it right? By examining “nourishing or depleting.”
What are the areas of your life that drain your energy, that depress you, that suck the life out of you? Don’t go there. Don’t do that. Change that part of your life.
What are the areas of your life that give you life, that energize you, which fill you with energy and excitement and hope and joy? Go there. Do that. Follow that path.
Audio version of the homily is here: