- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

February 12, 2019

Fr. Gerard D’Souza, OCSO

5th Tuesday of Ordinary Time

This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Jesus is excoriating the scribes and Pharisees for honoring God with their lips. How do they do this – by following human tradition rather than God’s commandments. Those whose hearts are close to God keep His commandments. In making this connection, Jesus tells us that passion for God must animate the keeping of the commandments or it’s just an honoring Him with our lips. . Why is passion so important  -because passion is only an answering passion to the passion of God who first loved us.

Our first reading states in very measured and even majestic cadence, the creation of the world and especially of man. But behind this, we must catch glimpses of the Divine Eros, the Divine Passion pouring itself out recklessly in creation. This Divine Passion seeks an answering passion from each of us. Our answering passion shows itself in the keeping of the commandments, because the commandments are not arbitrary impositions but just this answering passion embodied in action. Thus St Thomas Aquinas will say that perfection consists in the keeping of the commandments because the end of the commandments is nothing other than a way to the perfection of charity. All this might come as a surprise to us who see the commandments antagonistically. For us liberty, and freedom means doing your own thing, it means throwing off the yoke of the Other.

When the self is enthroned in the center, then our relations with God will be contractual. The commandments will always be viewed with suspicion and as an unwelcome imposition. We will keep the commandments in order to skirt the boundaries of hell. We will honor God with our lips and with our formality but our hearts will be far from Him. As Dom Bernardo points out in his article on Experience – the one we as a community are reading these days – there has to be a de-centering of self. When the self is de-centered, then we can let the Holy Spirit enthrone Himself at the center of self. Then we are open to His inspirations.

This radically de-centered self in a spirit of humility appropriates these inspirations and implements them under the driving, passionate wind of the Spirit. Where before there was antagonism and resentment and begrudging compliance when the self was at the center; now with the Spirit at the center, we experience for ourselves something that will defy the logic of the world but which is verified in personal experience – total obedience and complete liberty. By the mysterious workings of grace we have become one spirit with the Lord and like Jesus who is one in substance with the Father – we always do what pleases the Father.