Thursday, October 8, 2015

Obedience Out of Fear

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This Sunday, the second reading will be from Hebrews 4:12-13. I suggest reading from the beginning of the chapter, for context, and then read the other readings.

The writer to the Hebrews writes in this chapter on the Sabbath rest, though you wouldn’t know it by the brief excerpt we read today. Nowadays, Sundays are starting to look so much like every other day of the week that resting on Sundays is a hard thing for Christians to talk about seriously and really enter into.

It’s easy to become scrupulous about the way we spend our time on Sundays, but it’s important to recall that because nothing - no action, no thought - will be concealed from God.

It is most important that we act out of right motivation. What do you differently because it’s Sunday? Do you decline to do the laundry on Sundays because you want to enter into God’s rest, or because you just don’t feel like it? 

In some ways, the Sunday “rules” will look different for different people. For example: a friend of mine loves gardening - it relaxes her, makes her feel good. It does not have the same impact on me. I do not like gardening. Should we do gardening on Sunday? Her - absolutely. Me? Absolutely not. 

God also knows our motivations - If we’re refraining from things out of fear, we’re not really resting, fear is not rest.

If we are following God’s laws out of fear, we’re not in a horrible place - the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom, after all.

But it’s just the beginning - and it’s also the beginning of knowing the Lord. Knowing that God is a being whom we have good reason to fear - that’s self preservation! Anyone with good sense knows that “all-powerful” means “can-crush-you-like-a-bug”!

The young man in our Gospel this Sunday approaches Jesus with exactly this level of real knowledge of God, but with the desire to know more. He asks - not for how to please the Lord, but for how to get a guarantee. And because he was only a little bit away from where he needed to be, Jesus does not initially look disappointed, and tells him what he must do.

Making the leap from fearing God to loving him is hard, and for as long as we continue to think of our religion as a list of rules and “thou-shalt-nots”, we will continue to be living in that place of fear.  This is not where God wants us - we cannot enter into a real relationship with someone we are afraid of. You cannot love that which you are still afraid of.

Let’s Pray:

Almighty Father,
Give our right fear of you its proper place, and transform it into a proper sense of awe, rather than the terror that is so much more natural. Teach us to love you, and in learning to love you, let us also learn to love our neighbor on your behalf.


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