Monday, November 15, 2010

Looking Deeper

Matthew 12:38-42
Exodus 20:1-17
Galatians 4:22-26

St. Augustine: "The Church is a harlot, but She is your mother."

Exodus 20:12: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you."

Jesus: "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign ..." (Matthew 12:39)
Exodus 20:14: "You shall not commit adultery."

Referring to Augustine's rather strong words toward the Church earlier made me begin to rethink the so-called "Ten Commandments" and how the contemporary Church has come dangerously close to marginalizing the more profound meaning implied in each one, reducing the "preamble" to the Law to little more than a list of rules by which we are inclined to justify our own sense of righteousness.

There can be little doubt that several of the commandments refer to the relationships we have with one another in the Lord's effort to teach us how to live in community with one another and be "set apart" from the dominant culture, but I cannot say I've heard much of a reference to any of these commandments within a much broader application.

But what if we were to look closer and deeper? What if we considered Jesus' rather strong words to the scribes and Pharisees, and the many biblical references to "adultery", on a much broader scale? We cannot reasonably say Jesus was simply referring to the scribes and Pharisees - indeed an entire "generation" - as just a bunch of "cheaters" who were all being unfaithful to their spouses. The accusation goes deeper - much deeper than mere "flesh". It can actually be tied to our status as members of the Body of Christ; in fact, it has to be - or some of the deeper meaning gets lost in the "flesh".

Even in the case of honoring one's parents, we should consider how one can "honor" a parent who has abandoned them. What is there to honor, first, if there is no honor at all in the life of the one we are compelled to honor? And secondly, how can we honor someone we don't even know? There are children who have been in foster care all their cognitive lives and are moved from home to home on a semi-consistent basis. These children know no "home" to call their own, and many don't even know a "mother" or "father" worthy of the kind of honor the Lord God compels. So what?

In order for the Law to have real meaning, it has to be universal; which is to say, the Law must be equally applicable across the board. Roman Catholic priests and nuns are not married, but it is not reasonable to say the prohibition against adultery does not apply to them - or it applies to them but in a way that is "different" from how it applies to you or me. This makes the Law - the whole Law - exclusive only to particular classes or categories of persons, or even individuals. Clearly the Law is applicable to all who seek to be in community with the people of the Lord. However, it cannot mean "more" to those within the Church, and it does not mean "less" to those outside the Church.

We have a common "Father" as human beings, the immortal "seed" by which we came to be. Likewise, we all have a common "Mother" who nurtures us, sustains us, disciplines us, comforts us, and protects us. It is unfair and inconsistent within the language of faith that those of us who were blessed to be have been born into what we would call "normal" homes to "normal" parents have more of a rightful claim - or a heavier burden - than those whose very birth feels like a curse only because they do not have "parents" as you and I have or had, or did not grow up in the same "home" as you and I did.

Universally we are all "married" to the same Bridegroom and live under the same universal Promise. By His Blood He has a rightful claim. What is not universal is the level of acceptance among us. Some enter into the Covenant as equal partners with the Lord in His Body the Church - while others are eager to proclaim "salvation" for themselves as sure as the Eternal Promise proclaims but who also live well outside of the Covenant of Community.

They make up their own rules and refuse to surrender any part of their being. They are perhaps being faithful to their earthly spouses and honoring their earthly parents - and are therefore self-justified - but their hearts and loyalties are far and apart from the heart of Christ. They expect the Lord to "swing by" and pick them up as He is passing through when He returns, but they will not be found searching for Him. They fully expect the Lord to "come to them" - but until that Time comes, they want no part of Him or His Church. They deny the universality of the Law or the Lord.

These are the very ones Jesus refers to as the "adulterous" generation whose intentions are, according to St. Augustine, contrary to the "divine order" and thus "evil". They are not responding to a call to repentance and faith but choose instead to stand "justified" by their own actions, their own definitions, standards, and measures of "righteous". And the Gentiles who respond in faith to the call of the Gospel will stand in judgment of the self-described "faithful" for it is they who will be true "heirs to the Throne"; those who were faithful not to the "flesh" but to the Spirit.

It is a harsh idea especially when we do the best we can by our spouses and by our parents, but there is a substantial difference between our obedience to the "flesh" and our obedience to the Spirit.

There is ONLY One who will always be True to us, and we only have one "Father" and one "Mother" both of whom are truly worthy of Honor.

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