Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
I love today's first reading (Deuteronomy 4:32-40) because it comes just before the passage where God gives the Ten Commandments,and it is a description of why God hopes the people will follow the Ten Commandments and take them to heart. Usually we see the Ten Commandments listed on a wall or on the back of a prayer card, without their context, as though God simply gave them with no explanation or rationale.
Yet that is far from the case, God makes an argument in today's reading for why the people should follow the law, which is because of all that God has done for them, because what God has done is unique, because that uniqueness shows the sheer depth of God's utter love for his people.
The Ten Commandments, in turn, are a means of helping people learn to love better. In giving the Ten Commandments, God invites the people into his life of love. He hopes that by following the commandments, the people will be able to remember, and share and constantly understand the depth of God's love for them. Of course, that doesn't always happen. There are numerous times when the people either forget the story that goes with the commandments, or they fail to follow the commandments or both. Despite it all, God loves them and keeps coming back to them, asking them to be part of his own life.
In today's gospel (Matthew 16:24-28), Jesus offers a very different commandment: take up your cross and follow me. This, too, is a commandment that invites us to participate in God's own life of love. With this commandment, though, we see that learning to love in the way that God loves has real consequences for our lives. We may even lose our lives, figuratively or literally. (I also suspect that following the Ten Commandments well would also mean that we might lose our lives, literally or figuratively.)
Today, we are invited to reflect on Jesus' cross, and on all the kinds of crosses people bear. Let us pray for the grace to live out God's invitation to love.
- Jana M. Bennett