Responding in gratitude

March 20, 2020 – Friday 3rd Week of Lent

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Policies, regulations or laws are essential elements in our society. They govern and guide us as we live our life and relate with one another. Our lawmakers in this country are expected to make laws that will promote life, protect life and develop the life of every Filipino. That is how a law is very important.  As good citizens, we strive to follow the law of the land.

Because of the pandemic Covid-19 our lawmakers and key government leaders are now giving directives and executive orders to us citizens in order to protect the population and prevent the spread of the virus.

Talking about laws, our religion has also laws of which we are expected to follow. We have the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament and the Code of Canon Law that guide our Roman Catholic Church. In fact, there are plenty of laws being conceived and promulgated year after year. 

The image of many laws reminds us of the Jews especially of the Pharisees and other teachers of the Jewish law at that time of Jesus. In Jesus’ time, there were about 613 laws that a good and faithful Jew must know and observe. Laws are designed to guide a person but since laws are man-made they too are prone to imperfection. Laws are designed to give and preserve justice, fairness and make direction and guidelines as people relate with one another . However, many laws can also be a burden. And there were many laws of the Jews that were quite burdensome.

We have heard a scholar of the Jewish law asking Jesus on what was the greatest law? Jesus responded with two that are inter-related. The first is, “to love God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” And second, “to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our Christian faith must be rooted in these two commandments. However, following these two greatest commandments we need the right attitude. And what is that right attitude? 

The failure of many of us in practicing our faith is when we limit our faith within church laws. Limiting ourselves within these laws or commandments will only bring us into a legalistic attitude. This attitude believes that Christianity is about fulfilling laws. When we break a law or a rule we feel guilty. This attitude is not what God wants. God does not want us to feel guilty of the wrong we did in breaking God’s law. Rather, God wants us to feel sorry because our response to Him is lacking and ungrateful.

We may have laws but God wants us to look what is behind these many laws. This is what Jesus said to the teachers of the law. Jesus revealed to them what was behind these laws, and that was love – to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

How shall we do this? We are only able to respond to God with love when we ourselves are conscious of God’s love for us, his goodness and generosity in us. This is what we find in  the Book of Hosea. The first reading tells us how God shows mercy and compassion to the erring people. God has promised, “I will heal their disloyalty and love them with all my heart.” God as if speaking in human language, shows God’s faithfulness to us despite our unfaithfulness.

This experience of forgiveness, mercy, love and faithfulness from God moves us now to respond to God, to respond in “gratitude.” This is the right attitude that we are called to develop.

This is how Jesus is inviting us today – that as we live our lives as Christians, our response to God should be out of “gratefulness” not out of fear or mere obligation. Thus, faith is beyond obligation, it is a human response of love to the God who first loved us, as Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI said.

Our love for God will then be shown in our words as well as in our actions. We shall be generous to those who are in need because we are grateful to God who is generous to us. We shall show our concern and affection to our friends because God shows his love to us in many ways. We shall forgive those who hurt us because God has forgiven us first. 

Today, we are also called to follow the directives set by our civil and church leaders as our act of gratitude in protecting and serving us and also as our act of charity to people who are now at the frontlines in fighting against the Covid-19. Hopefully, by our collective effort in following the guidelines for our community, God may also deliver us from this disease. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR


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