As most of you know, my day job is the elementary principal in Fort Davis. We have lots of rules to follow. For instance, when the pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten students walk down the hallway in a group, they are instructed to have duck tails and bubbles in their mouth. For those of you who have not worked in an elementary school, it looks like this ….
The first time I saw this, I could not understand why. Until the day we had a substitute teacher who didn’t know this rule, and I could hear them coming as soon as they entered the building. I watched students pulling themselves up on the railings, touching the lockers, laughing aloud. Delightful for me to watch. Not so much for the teachers trying to conduct a lesson.
As all of us have experienced, schools have lots of rules as do most institutions. Our own country is a Nation of Laws. It is what keeps a civilization working coherently. However, history has taught us that not all laws hold a people up, but are used to repress and marginalize – Jim Crow laws and Nuremburg laws to name just two examples.
But, in today’s lessons, we read about laws that are centered on love. A strong, demanding love. Love God. Love your neighbor.
According to the “Lector’s Guide and Commentary” the Deuteronomy passages is a speech Moses delivers to the Israelites prior to his death and to Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses wants his people to follow the law, and he wants them to Choose Life by loving the Lord with all of one’s life and possessions and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. It is in this love that they will prosper and be blessed by the Lord.
Choose life by loving the Lord and loving our neighbors. It is so simple and so profound. It is a light to follow in the dark. It is guidepost when we are making those 5,000 daily decisions. How do we choose to live our lives? Do we walk in love? Do we see our neighbors as children of God? Do we lift up our co-workers? Do we open our heart to strangers? Do we truly see one another as we pass by in the grocery store or at the post office? Are we careful with our words when posting on Facebook, Instagram or Snap Chat? My fingers hoover over the keyboard as I prepare to send my thoughts out into the cyber universe. Do I stop and ask are these words based on a strong, demanding love? Do I love my neighbor? To live in this world today with a 24-news cycle, constantly plugged in to our electronic devices, can be so difficult to stay centered on loving God with all our hearts, and loving our neighbor who doesn’t believe what I believe. “To live in the center of the inauthentic – politicians who lie, players who cheat, companions who betray, people who hate – dries out the soul and destabilizers the heart.” This is not a modern condition. Moses knew this to be true and is clear that to Choose Life is to choose to love the Lord with all of one’s life and possessions. If we can stay focused on this, we have a “roadmap for our spiritual life without shaming or blaming us.” as Fr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones writes in Forward Day by Day about Psalm 119 – and its 176 verses!
Matthew’s gospel continues with Jesus saying – yes, follow the law. He’s not discarding the laws, but he is showing us a way to reconcile the negative situation which as humans, we most certainly will find ourselves in. We will get angry at our neighbor. We will gossip. We will have lust in our hearts for other people and also for all kinds of things – material goods, power, greed, drugs, and the list goes on. Jesus says it is better to tear out our eyes and cut off our hands – now that’s extreme – but I believe he was saying it’s better to turn away from those things that might temp us. It is better to make the choice to make peace with my sisters and brothers than to hold hate in my heart. It is choosing to love God over all of the other things that scream for our attention and loyalty. We will choose life when we choose to Love God and Love our neighbors.
It does not matter whether we are living in the wilderness or the Promised Land when it comes to choosing life. This choice for life has to do with paying attention to all the small choices we make every day with this always in the forefront – Is this choice, and the next one and the next keeping the commandants? Is it keeping the commandment to love God and love our neighbor? Is it the loving choice to make? We don’t know where are choices will lead us, but we do have this guidepost to follow. In this choice am I loving God? In this choosing, am I loving my neighbor? Let us Choose Life.
Let us pray:
As we walk through our days, Lord, help us to consider what legacy we may leave this world. Help us to search out the best paths and reveal our commitment to your Way in every choice we make. You have set before us many options, so be in our minds and hearts as we choose. Amen.