Readings for September 2, 2018
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
“Well, I believe in truth. But I’m also a big fan of justice.”
-Superman, The Justice League
When I “want justice,” I typically want to see someone punished for something I’ve judged as wrong. And if the wrong is particularly grievous, I have to admit that I would love little more than to have Superman fly in and inflict “justice” on the one who committed the wrong—Krypton-style.
But God is not Superman, and He has a different definition of justice. My definition of justice seems to center around judgement and punishment, but God’s centers around love. He reminds me that I am not on earth to judge or punish but that I must “walk without blemish,” and “work for justice” while holding “the truth in [my] heart,” … I must “harm not [my] fellow man,” … and I must refuse to “take up a reproach against [my] neighbor.” It turns out that as a God who commands that I love my neighbor, God wants me to, well, love my neighbor.
This love that I am called to isn’t as simple as telling my wife and kids “I love you” every night as I go to bed either. Love is a verb, it requires action. Which is why Jesus cautions not to honor God with lip service, but to rend my heart to Him and live my faith.
St. James points out that religion is only “pure and undefiled before God” when I “care for orphans and widows in their affliction.” Justice is served as I “humbly welcome the Word” and live by it as a “doer.” Yes, I am saved by the unearned grace of God, made living and true through the sacrificial love of Christ. But if I do not live that love, I am honoring Him only with my lips, worshiping in vain as I cling to my human understanding.
This teaching on living love as an action and not merely as words and ritual seems revolutionary to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. But in Moses’ instructions to God’s chosen people he tells them not to add or subtract from the laws and statutes of the Lord, and Jesus’ teaching is a fulfillment, not an exception to these instructions.
Jesus does not oppose or change the Law, because nothing in the Law is unjust. God implanted the Law in my heart to pull me closer to Him so that I can fulfill my purpose through His Son. Jesus, the Word and the Law made flesh, gives me the example of how to live love and justly serve God with all my heart.
Lord God, I know that all good giving and every perfect gift comes from You. Grant me the humility to welcome Your Word, made manifest through Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And may my life reflect Your love in all I say and do, for the glory of Your name. Amen