22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

At the time of Jesus, the scribes and the pharisees had gone to such extreme lengths that religion had been consumed by just following allot of rules. Do this, do that, wash your hands, do all these things. Religion, was about just about doing things. Today the pendulum has seemed to have swung all the way to the other side with people saying, you don’t need any rules, no just love God. Just be a good or a kind person.

My friends, often times when we are faced with two extremes we are called to come to the middle. Rather than either or, often times it is both and. Jesus doesn’t say in today’s gospel, stop doing things. No, you can’t actually have a faith without a series of rules. You see, the rules are given to us to help us love God. While allot of younger people complain that the Church has too many rules, that religion is about doing things. But you don’t have anything if you don’t have rules. As a matter of fact, no matter who you are or what you do, you have rules. To say I have no rules is to actually create a rule for yourself; a rule that says you will have no rules. You can’t live in this world without rules. Why, because they help us love as we ought.

Those of you in loving relationships know that love is more than just saying I love you, that love has to be lived out and that love is lived out in different ways with different people. One of the most popular books in the past 50 years is the book, The Five Love Languages, which teaches someone how to demonstrate that they love someone. Look, it makes utterly no sense to say you love your spouse, while knowing your spouse likes a clean house, and then just leave the house a mess. You can say you love your spouse all you want, but your actions don’t seem to add up to that.

The rules help us love. God tells we need to come to church every Sunday. Why? Because if we are going to love Him we have to spend time with Him. God gives us the 10 commandments, why? Because if we are going to love Him we need to show Him that respect and love others. You know Jesus tells us this in the scriptures. He tells us, “if you love me you will keep my commandments.”[1] Jesus tells us how to love Him; by keeping His commandments. It makes utterly no sense to say we love Jesus but not to care about His commandments or decide not to follow the rules He gives us.

Rules though, aren’t just about helping us love the other person. They are there to help keep us on track, they are there to help keep us focused. You would never have a basketball hall of fame without rules for the game of basketball. The game would be reduced to a physical fight in the middle of the court. No one would ever be able to score and you wouldn’t even have a game. But just because you know the rules of basketball doesn’t mean that you are going to be hall of fame worthy. No, you have to also have that desire and drive to play the game. But that desire to play the game, the desire to perfect your skills isn’t going to do anything if you don’t follow the rules because you are going to sit on the bench for the whole game.

The same is true in our own lives. Yes, we need the rules to help keep us focused, but if our sole focus is on the rules we are missing the point. The rules are an aid to help us get where we need to go. The rules are an aid to help us love God above things and then to love our neighbor as ourself. You see, it’s what Jesus gets to in today’s gospel. Interiorly we should love God. Interiorly we should want to have that relationship with Him and if we have that then the rules naturally follow. Why so many rules? Because we are week human beings and we need them. Why so many rules? Because they help to keep us on track. Why so many rules? Because they help us demonstrate our love to God.

You know Jesus is very quick in today’s gospel to point the hypocrisy of the scribes and the pharisees for focusing just on rules and not on their relationship with God and rightfully so. But I dare say if Jesus were here right now, He would be just as quick to point out the hypocrisy of those who say they have a relationship with Jesus but say they don’t want or don’t need the rules. My friends, it is not either or. It is not either I just follow the rules and religion is just a check box of things to do or I actually love God in my heart. It’s a both and. I love God and because I love God I want to show Him that I love Him, by following His commandments and those commandments help me to love Him deeper because they help to keep me on track.

[1] John 14:15

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