Love and Do What You Will

07-03-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

For the most part, taking shortcuts to achieve a goal is counterproductive because it usually means completely redoing something later to make it what it is supposed to be. The minimal or poor effort usually produces very poor or inadequate results, as the saying goes: “if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” This maxim also applies to living our Catholic Way of Faith and Life.

Our first reading illustrates how doing things correctly takes time. This is the reason why Elisha asks for time to go home and say good bye to his parents. He knew that the cloak that was on his shoulders meant a very important task was before him. He may not have expected to become a prophet, after all, he was a farmer, but he now took his new role seriously.

Our Gospel passage of this weekend shows us, Jesus, as He begins his great journey to Jerusalem. We know that Jerusalem is where “the days for His being taken up were fulfilled.” This is the epic journey of Jesus which began with a great complication that was based on the ancient feud between the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus had to ask to cross through the land of Samaria to achieve His journey to Jerusalem. We must remember that the Samaritans are the people who replaced the Jews when they were forced into exile to Babylon. They took the lands away from the now exiled Jews and over time intermarried with the few remaining Jews who did not go into exile. More importantly, the Samaritans practiced a blended form of Judaism based on their ancient faith and that of the Jews. When the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, they resented, if not hated these Samaritan people. Jesus did not get permission from the Samaritans to cross their land, so He had to take a longer route to get to Jerusalem.

The linkage between the first reading and the Gospel becomes clear at a certain point. The two disciples who were asking Jesus about this trip must have appeared rather weak in their commitment to Jesus. As a result, Jesus makes it crystal clear this journey is not some fanciful trip for everyone. In fact, it is the very cost of discipleship with Jesus. Jesus was willing to take the longer route to get to where His destiny will happen. He expected those who walked with Him to do so with faith and conviction and also without complaint.

Saint Paul, in our second reading, is dealing with people who wanted to keep all the old ways and the old laws. The Galatians wanted everyone to observe the Jewish Law. Paul realized that this debate about keeping all the old laws of the Jews was a distraction and had little to do with faith. Saint Paul wanted the people to come to understand that they were to love first and then do what love demands. This is how Saint Paul interpreted the words of Jesus and he wanted the Galatians to come to recognize that faith and love in God are what drive us and show us the steps to take in life. Paul wants to let people know that baptism freed everyone from the law and gave us the freedom to do even more. The Law of Christ demands more of us than narrow the restrictive Jewish laws.

Saint Augustine who was a great sinner in his life and became a great saint tells us: “Love, and do what you will.” If you follow the love of God, then you will always do what is right. Our first reading and Gospel tell us that this is not always easy or convenient but the effort, time, and work are worth it for our lives to have deeper meaning and purpose.