What does God’s order look like?
For the people of Israel, the answer to this question lay in the Law, which the Book of Sirach invokes in this Sunday’s readings as the primary source of order for those who opt for it: If you choose, you can keep the commandments; they will save you. As Wisdom literature, Sirach is full of instructions on proper behavior, directing readers away from chaos (which is frequently the choice of human beings, thanks to free will) and toward a world in which love rules. Participating in the order set out by the commandments was perceived as aligning oneself with God; obedience leads to right relationship. These sentiments are echoed in Psalm 119, which focuses on the human capacity to learn God’s ways, to walk with the Lord: Open my eyes, that I might consider the wonders of your law, the psalmist asks. In other words, help me to be internally disposed, bearing the power of discernment, so as to be open to God, because it is in God that I will find life.
From a Christian perspective, the coming of Jesus represents a new kind of order, one still focused on relationship, but based first and foremost in love. In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus invokes a variety of Jewish laws (about murder, adultery, and false oaths, in this week’s reading), deepening the implication of Jewish law from the literal – the letter of the law – to an internal and more profound understanding. For example, it’s not enough, Jesus says, not to murder; we need to protect our relationships with one another through compassion and kindness, building each other up, treating each other with reverence. In each case, constant attention to relationship is in order, particularly as concerns our internal disposition to that relationship. If we embrace one another in love, with our whole beings, we can’t help but maintain God’s order, for God’s order is love. This is the new wisdom of this age of which Paul writes to the Corinthians, a wisdom that applies not to a select few (like the Corinthians, who wanted to feel “special”), but to all: God has revealed the full force of his love, sending first his Son to die and rise, and then the Spirit to dwell in and with us, Love, in its most perfect form, known imperfectly by us, yet still, the principal source of God’s order in today’s world.
What does God’s order look like? Seek to live your life immersed in God’s Love, serving as a conduit of that Love to others, and you will find the answer.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.