The first reading is about God’s Law:
God’s Ten Commandments, God’s “Rules.”
We need rules; and even if we claim not to like them,
in fact, we really do.
Many complain that the Church imposes rules,
but the truth is, so often ordinary Catholics come to me and ask:
“Is there a rule for this situation?”
And if there isn’t a rule – and I say, well,
try to apply this scripture or moral principle,
that usually frustrates people who come back with:
“Just give me a rule!”
As I said, rules are useful.
Every family has rules:
Who does what chores, on what days;
how late is too late to be out on a school night, and so forth.
And – to quote the late Father Michael Seger,
who taught moral theology at the seminary in my time:
“Rules exist to protect values”:
“Thou shalt not kill” protects the value and dignity of human life.
But life is always more than rules;
and in the fullness of time, God’s Word became flesh:
Jesus came to invite each of us into a relationship with him.
To know him not only as Creator, as Judge, and as Savior – which he is –
But just as much as a brother and a friend.
So all this raises a question which I now want to put to you,
And, to be honest, I hope to make you think deeply about:
Is your Catholic Faith mainly about following rules?
Getting to Mass on time; keeping the communion fast;
praying your regular prayers;
no meat on Fridays during Lent;
not going too far on a date, not taking God’s Name in vain;
not drinking too much on a Friday or Saturday night;
and if you do these things, get to confession before communion.
As I said: every family needs rules, and that includes God’s Family.
If your faith is mainly about keeping rules? You’re missing it!
Our Catholic Faith is mainly, crucially, about a relationship!
God is a Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So God is – within Himself, in a way we can’t quite explain –
Life is a relationship.
There is not one person here who could be here
without a series of relationships.
You never have been an island all to yourself, and you never will be.
Maybe the reason God created the world this way
was so that his invitation to a relationship with him
would be amplified and re-echoed in everything we experience;
to give us every advantage, to have courage to believe, first,
that a relationship with God is possible…
And then to find it easier to follow the path he gives us
to that relationship – so we would be successful.
Most of us are really good at figuring out the rules;
even if you can’t quite figure out the rules for your taxes,
you can always pay someone to work them out for you.
Relationships are much harder.
Remember high school? There were always girls you noticed,
but you were scared too death to talk to them.
I remember attending my 10-year reunion and seeing some of them –
who were married – and thinking, why didn’t I ask them out?
Far harder is doing the work to make and keep a good relationship.
Lots of people are married – happily, it would seem –
but they don’t talk very much;
they don’t spend much time alone as a couple.
I know because you come and tell me –
along with the sadness and frustrations
that come with that disconnect.
Lots of our children need to talk to their parents:
so many of our girls are lied to about their value;
so many of both boys and girls are looking at stuff on their phones
they know is poison, but they don’t know how to stop.
Kids: no one in the world loves you as much as your mom and dad.
Talk to them!
Parents, you know they are scared: so you talk first!
Relationships take work but it’s worth it.
True for friends and family, most true with the God who made you,
and who came to earth precisely to die on the Cross to save you,
and who wants nothing more than to have you and me with Him forever.
Those money-changers Jesus confronted that day?
They must have been so confused, because, after all:
They were following all the rules!
Don’t just follow the rules: know God!
Talk to him, discover him; make friends!