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We say yes to God

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Gospel Commentary May 17, JN 14:15-21

In his book, “Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput cites a 2015 New York Times article by philosophy professor Justin McBrayer. His second-grade son had a homework assignment in which he had to decide whether a statement was opinion or fact, for example, “Copying homework assignments is wrong,” “Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior,” and “All men are created equal.” 

According to the school system, these statements are all opinions. If these are neither right nor wrong, but opinions, whose opinion decides and wins? Whoever holds power. So, what happens when a person disagrees with the opinion of the one in power? History testifies: Such a person is marginalized, slandered, sent to the gulag or concentration camp, or even eliminated. Consider how the media today deals with those who hold a different opinion. Remember Lenin coined the term “political correctness.” 

Over 10 years ago, Pope Benedict warned of the dictatorship of relativism and the logic of power.

However, God is truth. He established both a physical order that governs life, like the planets revolving around the sun, and a moral order that governs us who are made in his image. Just as scientific laws, like the law of gravity, are not subject to opinion, so moral laws are not subject to opinion. Through right reason, a man can discern what is good versus evil, truth versus falsehood; through grace and revelation, man can know what is true and good with certainty and without error.        

Regarding the moral law, we look to Jesus: He is the second person of the holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father, the Wisdom of God through whom all things were made, the Word of God who became incarnate. Jesus perfectly reveals God, and perfectly reveals how we are called to live our lives.

In last Sunday’s Gospel passage, Jesus taught, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He did not say, “I am one of many gods. I have the best opinion.” Now he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”  To think otherwise is to declare something, even oneself, God. 

Therefore, if we love Jesus, we keep the commandments, but in the fullest sense and in the spirt in which they are meant. Consider the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments: “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any false gods,” “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” and “Keep holy the Sabbath.” These commandments declare a yes to God: God is God, God is priority No.1. God gives meaning to one’s life. Therefore, we must love God above all things, and serve him wholeheartedly through prayer, worship on Sunday, studying the faith and performing charitable works.

The fourth commandment is “Honor thy father and mother.” We say yes to the goodness of marriage between husband and wife, and the family, and respect all other legitimate authority.

The fifth commandment is “Thou shalt not kill.” We say yes to the sanctity of life from conception until natural death, and the dignity of each person.  

The sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” We say yes to the sanctity of marital love between husband and wife.

The seventh commandment is “Thou shalt not steal.” We say yes to justice, treating all people fairly and remembering our solidarity with all mankind.

The eighth commandment is “Thou shalt not bear false witnesses.” We say yes to truthfulness.

The ninth and tenth commandments are “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife or his goods.” We say a grateful yes appreciating our own gifts and respecting those of others.

God gave us these commandments because he is Love, and he loves us. He has purposely willed each one of us and has given us life. He wants us to live in freedom: Jesus said, “If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

God wants us to share life with us now and in heaven. The commandments, therefore, are not prohibitions from a severe judge, but the directions of a loving God who wants to dwell in our hearts.    

Later, Pontius Pilate would scoff, “What is truth?” and then wash his hands of the Lord. Many today scoff, saying, “I love Jesus,” but wash their hands of his truth, whether taught in Scripture or the teachings of the church, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. They kowtow to public opinion. They boast, “I disagree. My opinion holds.” And sadly, how many crash and burn, living the life of slaves due to their own choices, now and even one day in hell.

Our Lord once asked the apostles, after a difficult teaching, “Do you want to leave me too?” They responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words to eternal life. We have come to believe; we are convinced that you are God’s holy one.” 

As we near the end of our Easter celebration, may we emphatically profess the same.   

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls and episcopal vicar for faith formation and director of the Office of Catechetics.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020