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Rules and Rebellion

On this Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises. Today’s reading focuses on the disobedience of the Israelites; specifically, the disobedience of the second generation of Israel out of Egypt.

As with their fathers, the disobedience of the second generation is met with God’s wrath. The immediate lesson seems obvious: God wants our obedience.  But Jesus expands on this requirement.  When a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to obtain salvation, Jesus’ initial response demands obedience:

You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”  Mark 10:19.

The rich man’s response:  “easy-peasy, lemon squeazy.”  Or, “check, got it Lord.  Now what?” So Jesus challenges him further:

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  Mark 10:21.

Talk about a tall order!  Obedience alone is hard enough.  Now Jesus wants more?

I find obedience to be very difficult.  If I am honest with myself, an in-depth analysis of the Ten Commandments reveals that I fall well short of the mark.  And the two greatest commandments raise the bar, forcing me to ask myself:

  • Do I love the Lord our God with all my heart, with all my being, with all my strength, and with all my mind? 
  • Do I love my neighbor as myself?

And now Jesus demands more?  Not only must I obey the dos and don’ts of the Old Testament—now I must give up everything and follow Him?

Christ’s command, however, reveals the reason behind God’s commandments.  God wants more than just our obedience.  He wants our love.  He wants our motivation be solely this: the desire to please Him, to grow in our relationship with Him.

So, when the rich man asks how he can gain salvation, he is asking for selfish motives:  what can I get and how can I get it?

Jesus challenges this mentality, asking us to think instead:  how can I best serve Jesus, my Lord and my Savior?

Obedience, then, is no longer an end in and of itself—obedience is a reflection of our Love for God.

Day 29-2The Baltimore Catechism of 1891 sums it up well in this Q-and-A:

Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.

Or said in prayer:

“My God, grant that I may love Thee, and grant that the only reward of my love will be to love Thee always more and more.”

Day 29-1


A New Identity

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.  This week we continue our focus on the Exodus and particularly focus on the Israelites’ struggles in the desert.

After freeing the Israelites from the bondage of slavery, God gives them a new identity:  not only are they His people, but they are to be a “priestly” people.

This new identity requires them to obey His commands.  Or more accurately, “you obey me completely and keep my covenant.”  In return, “you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, though all the earth is mine.”  Ex. 19:05.

God tells the Israelites that their status as a nation will not be defined by political power, by military might or by natural resources.  The Israelites will find their identity in their relationship with God:  “You will be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.”  Ex. 19:6.

A Californian once explained to me how Californians differ from the rest of Americans:  whereas most Americans identify themselves by their work—what they do for a living, Californians define themselves by their play—what they do for fun.

Q:  “So, what do you do?”

A1:  “I’m a lawyer.”  OR

A2:  “I’m a surfer.”

To me, either approach falls short of true identity.  Maybe the question predetermines the answer, but in either answer, identity is based on activity.

What if the question was:  “who are you?”  This question is not often asked, perhaps because it begs a more intimate response.  “Who are you?” probes more deeply than “what do you do?”

I think, however, that most of us answer the second question (“what do I do”) as a way to identify themselves (“who am I.”)

But as a chosen people, the Israelites define themselves first by their relationship with God, their Covenant.  They are a holy nation.

If I first identify who I am by my relationship with God, then my actions—what I do—must follow the example of Joshua:

“As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  Joshua 24:15.

Day 26-2

This Lent I hope to realign my priorities with God’s plan, to seek only His will.

Day 26-1

Contracts and Covenants

On this Saturday After Ash Wednesday, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

I have something to confess and I hope you won’t hold it against me. I … am a lawyer. I know: I’m supposed to sheepishly say “I’m not that kind of lawyer.” But to be honest, I don’t know of any legal practice that cannot be done with a humble heart, a servant’s spirit and a clear conscience.

So, I’m a lawyer and for over a decade my practice has focused primarily on contracts. Drafting, reviewing, negotiating, enforcing. And I read today’s reading through the lens of my experience.


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