15 October 2009 Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Rom 3, 21-30; Psalm 130; Luke 11, 47-54
The first reading speaks to many of us who think that when we are “perfect” we will be worthy of God. Some even believe, often unawares, that we can “earn” God’s love through our efforts alone. All of us have failed God, have not measured up to our potential glory through our individual, personal or even social misdeeds. And if we commit mistakes several times, how can we be in a right relationship with God?
We have also struggled with this even in our human relationships. At the onset of a potential relationship, we would put our right foot forward. We always try to be the perfect person, following every rule and precept we find in “how-to” books about the perfect date, the perfect place, the right way to conduct oneself. We label it “the perfect person”. But often, when the “right” partner has been won, the “perfect” image begins to wear off, and we are so disappointed at what we have actually entered into or who our partner turns out to be. The right partner is not perfect at all: not even perfect for us. The reason is simple: we cannot find the ideal relationship, even the right person for us. It is worked out in dialogue with the ingredients of forgiveness and fulfilled promises.
Only God is perfect. But we move towards perfection. We will always find ourselves wanting, lacking, limited, sinful, neglectful, and even not knowing we are overlooking important needs of the other — and even of ourselves. And thus, both person is never worthy of the other. What makes us worthy of the other is not ourselves, but the love of the other for us. It is the other’s love who makes us worthy of him or her. It is God’s love who makes us worthy of His love. Because the other chose us, freely and willingly. Because the other decided to commit to us, accepting our warts and all. We say before communion, “Lord I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” He makes us worthy to receive Him, not our achievement. Conversely, when we love another, our love for them makes them worthy of us.
The same thing with God. God’s love makes us worthy of Him. When we try to assess ourselves and judge whether we are worthy of His love, we are navel-gazing. We are actually focusing on ourselves; looking at our qualifications and resumes. But when we love, we just love whoever, whatever they are. Thus the thesis of St. Paul is true. Paul says, the One God is God of all — Jews or Gentiles. No one can judge whom God SHOULD love. We cannot even judge another that that person should go to hell or heaven. That is for God to decide. We can judge whether the acts of the person is good or bad; but to condemn the other to hell is not our job. When we play god, we are self-righteous. Our ways are not God’s.
When we enter into the right relationship with God, we enter in faith. We believe that we are worthy to be in a relationship with a God because He loves us. It is not about observing all the detailed requirements of the law. I am not denying that certain laws are important especially in liturgy. There must be some structure to make worship organized such as rubrics at mass, or the color of the vestments, or the formula prayers for the morning. They are important. But we have to distinguish, as the Gospel tells us, what is important, what is more important, and what is most important. The tragedy is when we treat the trivial as the most important, than the most essential value of justice, faith, and charity to our neighbors. This is what the Pharisees overlooked as Jesus pointed out.
Discernment thus is essential in being in a relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.