The fork in the road
The Scriptures seem clear in describing human life as a choice between two directions. On the sixth Sunday of the Liturgical year, beautiful selections from both the Book of Sirach, the first Letter to the Corinthians, and the Gospel of Matthew will bear this out.
Jesus assures us that He has come to fulfill the Old Testament Law, and in doing so He makes it more observant. Ultimately Jesus’ whole life is about God in-the-flesh living under His own law, suffering because it was disobeyed, and assuring us all the while that it is never too late to switch directions.
In teaching that it is what comes from within us that defiles humanity, not what we consume, Jesus declared all foods clean. This is one change of the old law, but His teachings on marriage, adultery and divorce are restored to God’s original vision.
If Jesus’ life can be said to illustrate God living under His own law, then it means that He intends for His way to protect and keep us in stable peace. This is the gift that no political system has been able to achieve. Sometimes it is what comes from outside the soul of humanity that corrupts it; not what comes from within.
There is a natural human desire to know the divine, as evidenced by the multiplicity of religions in the history of the world. Every great culture has held beliefs about the Creator.
Jesus makes clear that the direction He offers must run through the altar. He says if, while on the way to the altar, we recall a dispute with any neighbor, we should attempt
reconciliation before offering our sacrifice. It is clear that Jesus saw His path as one characterized by consistent divine worship.
In the old law, the worshiper always had to do some action. The observant Jews had to procure, prepare, and consume the Passover lamb. For those who follow the cultic admonition of Jesus to “do this in memory of me” in the New Covenant, we have to bring ourselves to the altar of the new temple, which, when celebrated, is to take us sacramentally to the foot of the cross on Calvary.
Jesus didn’t abrogate Sabbath worship, or make it a suggestion to be done occasionally. The worship He fulfills and purifies is a school in which we learn about love’s true depths. The in-fleshed God, Jesus, has left us a representation of His love and has died for us so that our inevitable tombs may one day open as well. It is here that we see how to love one another, and the reason for worshipping our God with inspired song.
If we cannot love the way God loves us, then we make it hard for others to love us authentically and the more we choose the path of self the worse it will become. We can exchange our religion for another, or adopt some new age life-philosophy, but any system that purports to offer a sacrifice-free existence of selfreference and narcissistic obsession is necessarily fl awed.
The one true living God asks us to probe love’s true depths accomplished by a journey down His path of true worship. There is no time like the present to make Jesus’ reconciliation our own so that our sacrifices will give God the utmost glory.
FATHER BRYAN BABICK is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.