Spirituality of the Readings
The Temple of God
Jesus has a deep insight into the human heart and into the laws that govern it. The First Reading provides mild hints: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”
Alright, but what does God’s holiness look like?
The Responsorial Psalm puts it this way:
The Lord is kind and merciful. He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.
This description of God sounds comforting. We can try to love this way, if we work hard enough, can’t we?
Hmmm. Well, lets look at the Gospel. It has Jesus’ own guidelines for imitating God. As he did last week, he quotes the old laws, and then he opens them up, giving us a view of their insides.
• Old Rule: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” New Rule: offer no resistance to one who is evil. … If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. … Do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
Difficult, difficult. When I lived in Berkeley, California, some beggars admitted frankly that they had a quota to make before they could go home. And sometimes a large, expensive car would come pick them up at five or six pm! It was a conspiracy. Should I have pealed off my coat for the syndicate?
Maybe so. They are poor. I cannot turn my back on the poor, can I? I have to crown them with kindness and compassion. Yet wouldn’t I be a patsy if I did? Help!
• Old Rule: “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” New Rule: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The heavenly Father loves and rewards both the bad and the good, the just and the unjust. “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Really, isn’t that just absurd? We are tiny ants compared to God, crawlers on rocks that flew loose from the big bang. How are we supposed to be giant, like God? Jesus had better have a very deep insight into the human heart and the laws that govern it.
And he does. “You are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Second Reading) Let me translate. God built the human heart “with a hole in it.” This is an openness that can let others in—if we don’t block it with selfishness, and if we grow into it. We can even let God’s own self in, and he will stretch our stunted outreach to others so that we will truly give out of love.
He even says as much at the Ascension.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
A word of warning: should I give to a beggar employed by a syndicate? Probably not. It is not for his good. Should a wife stay home where her husband beats her up regularly? No is the answer, because this is not “giving out of love,” it is trying to cuddle a rabid dog.
Real love is what we are after, the kind Jesus describes and which God pulls us toward.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University