This was written for yesterday but wasn't finished. I likely won't have a post for today, so enjoy!
Beginning on Monday with the Beatitudes, we started what is called the Sermon on the Mount. In the tradition of the Fathers, this sermon which begins in Mathew, chapter 5 is the corner stone of Biblical Moral Theology. It is the heart of Jesus' teaching about how we ought to live.
Jesus takes the Law of the Old Testament and gives an authoritative interpretation of it; it is ultimately God who has the final say in how Revelation should be interpreted. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill." However, this definitive interpretation also contains something new. This New Law is at one more difficult and easier. More difficult because of its tighter restrictions: it calls us to a life of greater perfection. It asks that we live lives appropriate for the kingdom of Heaven. In the next few days, we going to hear about how anger can be a form of murder, how cursing your neighbor puts you on the path to Hell, and how we need to apologize if we want any hope of entering into heaven. Look at how prevelant in the world, I would say that it's pretty hard to master these sins.
Yet, the New Law is something easier than the Old Law easier because it gives us the power to actually live the law. The New Law is the Law of Grace because it describes how the grace of God will transform your life. Grace is the stamp of God's image on your very being. Not so long ago, people would enclose envelopes by melting wax and stamping it with a personal seal. The wax took on the form and shape of the stamp. We are like that wax and God is like the stamp. In Baptism the stamp (God) is pressed into the wax and united to it. Such a glorious union between man and God could not leave man unchanged! Rather, we are deeply impressed with God's image and likeness, and conformed further to the life of Christ. The change in shape of our very being is called grace. God's grace is the result of His union with us, and the changing of our lives to like the life of Christ. By the grace which comes from the New Law, we are made able to live the new law. We are humble enough to seek forgiveness. We are no longer impatient and do not easily become angry with our Neighbors. God transforms our lives.
We can see a pre-figurement of the coming of God's grace in the first reading. Elijah prepares a sacrifice of a young bull to the Lord. He douses it with water before calling out to the Lord to send fire, which "came down and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust and it lapped up the water in the trench." When Elijah cried out to the Lord, a raging torrent consumed the sacrifice. This is how it works with us. Jesus, the Son of God, cries out to the Father, asking Him to send the Holy Spirit. He wants to offer us as sacrifices pleasing to His Father, so He sets us on fire with the Holy Spirit. Recall how He said, "I came to set fire to the earth, and how I wish that it was already burning!" Through the sending of the Son and the Spirit the whole Trinity unites Himself to the human person and makes them a burning sacrifice of love. Their missions transform the human person, set him on fire, and make him acceptable to our Heavenly Father. We become a living image of the Son of God, with whom the Father was well pleased.
The prophets of Baal look for help from the world and themselves rather than turning to the one true God. They are hurting themselves in their frenzy to obtain help from their false Gods. "They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears as was their custom until blood gushed over them. Our idols are all the little things we seek for its own sake, and when we pursue them for their own sake we only hurt ourselves. An example would be when you come home from work and after a superficial greeting, you veg-out on the couch and watch TV. You don't interact with your spouse or kids. You are pursuing the TV for its own sake over and against what should be your priorities. If this is a habitual, daily pattern your family is going to start to suffer. You're not going to have the intimate friendship that belongs to a family unless it is made a priority. This doesn't mean that watching TV is always evil, just only when we don't use it appropriately. We really suffer when we don't follow God's plan for our lives and pursue the false God's presented to us by the world. The Psalmist says, "I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed."
We need to put every sin to death and turn our faces to God, so that we might "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rm 12:1). This is the power of the New Law. Unlike the Old Law, the New gives us the power to love. The Holy Spirit sets us on fire with love! And this love is above all our spiritual sacrifice.