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July 10, 2022: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Associate Pastor’s Corner

For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. … No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” –Deuteronomy 30:11,14

Have you ever had to follow a rule that didn’t make sense, that was contrary to all logic?   Such rules often appear in huge organizations where no one really sees the bigger picture and factors like greed and stupidity and laziness have great sway.  In the face of seemingly arbitrary rules, a certain cynicism can set in: the leadership doesn’t really care about us, doesn’t understand the situation, so it’s better to break the rules when I feel like it and just try not to get caught.  

A similar attitude can set in when we consider the divine commands, particularly when our natural desires run in the opposite direction.  I want to kill my enemy, or cheat on my taxes, or submit to lustful desires, why should I follow some old rules in a Bible instead?

We all recognize that “if it feels good, do it” is not a reliable guide to making good decisions; very often our cravings and desires lead us into self-destructive behavior.  Moreover, our feelings are fickle and frequently do not even correspond to reality, so we cannot expect them to be reliable guides to making good choices.  The alternative is to have principles or commandments that have the power to overrule, as it were, the persuasive influence of our emotions.  Where might we find such rules?

As Moses says in Deuteronomy, the command of God “is not too mysterious and remote for you. … No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”  God, who created all things and made them good has written the principles of right action on our hearts and has also revealed them in the scriptures.  The laws that govern good human behavior are not arbitrarily given by an incompetent and uncaring authority, but rather are built into human nature itself by the One who cared for us so much that he created us out of nothing.

This “natural law” built into human nature is made explicit in Revelation, which helps us to reflect upon what we already read in our hearts.  This is important because our hearts can be wounded and we can all too easily seek to justify our actions, we can ask “And who is my neighbor?” instead of “how can I love my neighbor as myself?”

What are the commandments that you wrestle with the most?  Now is a good time to seek to understand them at a deeper level.  Go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, seek out scriptural commentaries, read the lives the saints who also struggled with those same questions.  Ask God for the understanding and wisdom to integrate them into your life, seek forgiveness when you fall, and hope in God’s neverfailing grace to make your moral life a graceful and beautiful one. 

                 -Fr. Christopher Wetzel OP

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