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Teach Me Your Ways, O Lord
Reflecting upon a simple prayer in complex times
During Thursday's Daily Mass Celebration, the congregation was encouraged to join in the responsorial psalm (R. Teach me your ways, O Lord), a beautiful prayer in light of its concise, precise and succinct message. In a world that seemingly becomes more and more muddled, hazy and downright confusing on a daily basis for those who seek truth through the Lord, this is in fact the perfect prayer for our times.
Recently, a well-known Episcopal Bishop claimed that it was the Church that "invented" hell, going on to say "I don't think Hell exists. I believe in life after death, but I don't think it's got a thing to do with reward and punishment.......and so they create this fiery place which has quite frankly scared the hell out of a lot of people throughout Christian history." I want to remind you that these comments were made by a man who has achieved the lofty title of Bishop of his Church, and he made them despite the numerous occasions in the Bible where Jesus Himself not only referenced Hell, but spoke in some detail of the stark reality of its "fiery" furnace-like existence (Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50, Mark 9:43, 48-49 among others). Fact is, Biblical Scholars estimate that Jesus spoke of hell three times as much as He ever did on heaven. After going on to accuse the Church of cultivating an environment that encouraged a "childish faith" - never stopping to define the difference between a childish faith and a child-like faith, which the Church and Jesus espouses as the one and only way to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10: 13-16) he gives his vision of an afterworld in which an individual's earthly words, choices and actions have no consequences, failing to grasp the irony of the childish vision that he in fact espouses.
This is what those who earnestly seek the truth in the year 2016 are up against.
In a day and age when those who doggedly defend the family, the rights of the unborn or in this case simply choose to live their lives in lock step with sacred scripture are ridiculed and written off as stubborn, unsophisticated or naïve in their thoughts or worse, it's now more critical than ever that we grow in wisdom and knowledge of our faith so that we can in fact rely on our Lord to teach us His way. Wisdom, perhaps the greatest gift that God bestows upon us if only we would ask Him for it, must be fostered and exercised in conjunction with the courage of one's conviction.
On that note, let's break down today's Gospel, brought to us courtesy of Mark 12:28-34:
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied "The first is this: Hear, Oh Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Good news/bad news story here. On the one hand, Jesus provides us with the roadmap to eternal life in His Kingdom. On the other hand, it's an awfully daunting task, one that seems almost impossible if we didn't already know that God would never ask us to do the impossible. You might even be thinking to yourself as you read this passage that you really don't even grasp how to do that. Let it go; it's already taken care of if you simply utter a very powerful prayer.
Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Our focus needs to be solely on continuing to gain a better understanding of our faith combined with our willingness to live it. So long as we know what to do and have an ardent desire to do it, God will show us how to do it.
Teach me your ways, O Lord.