What does right relationship look like?
When, in the Book of Exodus, God establishes his covenant with the people, God mandates social laws that prescribe the compassionate care of those less fortunate. Widows, orphans, resident aliens, the poor: all of these live in a state of utter dependence, and the compassion the people should extend to them has its origin in God himself. If your neighbor cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate, God tells the people. The people must live in right relationship with other – with neighbors and alien residents alike – in order to live in right relationship with God. Moreover, to be in right relationship with God makes life extraordinary because it means that God is involved in our lives, supports us, and blesses us, as Psalm 18 recognizes: I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. We are to embrace our absolute dependence on God and, in it, our absolute love for God, our foundation in all things, a love that flows out from us to other.
That love for God and for other is at the center of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, who challenge him in Matthew’s Gospel to identify the greatest commandment. His response is the Shema Yisrael: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. No aspect of our self is excused from relationship with God; we are to love with the whole of our being. And that absolute love for God is the context for loving our neighbor as ourselves thanks to that love that overflows abundantly to other. The Thessalonians were, in this sense, a model for all believers; their embrace of the kingdom, their acceptance of God’s perfect love, allowed them to give witness to that love. From them the word of the Lord sounded forth as a joyful witness to the blessings to be found in right relationship with God and with other. May we give similar witness to the power of that love in our lives and the joy it brings to be in right relationship with the Lord.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
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