Our readings for Sunday deal with laws and authority, appropriate topics for this penitential season. Lent is a good time to review the rules, so we start with the Ten Commandments in the reading from Exodus. God is establishing a covenant with Israel. The first four Commandments offer instruction for Israel’s relationship with God while the rest are for the people’s relationship with each other.
The Psalm praises these laws as “perfect, reviving the soul.” They reflect the qualities of God — right, clear, pure, enduring, true, righteous. We are reminded of the importance of following these laws. “Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
In Corinthians St. Paul scorns conventional thinking of God. The scholars of the day were looking for wisdom in this world. Jesus’s horrible death is scandal and folly to them, but Paul develops a wisdom theology in the message of Christ crucified.
The gospel takes Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover where his zeal for the Temple, “my Father’s house,” causes him to lash out at those who were turning it into “a marketplace.” He confronts — and confounds — the authorities by identifying himself as the Temple.
Today we have mixed feelings about laws. We want them to protect us and provide justice, but we also are grateful when they are put aside. Most New Yorkers are familiar with the eight magic words — “alternate side of the street parking is suspended.” We need clean streets, but what a relief it is when we don’t have to move the car.
As Christian New Yorkers, we follow both kinds of laws, the Commandments of God and the laws of the state. As Sisters and Associates of Charity, we follow the rules and spirit of St. Vincent, expressed in the current documents and statements of the Congregation. Elizabeth Seton adopted the rule of St. Vincent for the Sisters of Charity and adapted it to life in the United States. She took those rules and used her great strength and love of God to creatively shape a community that would draw in thousands of spiritual daughters to carry on her ministry into a third century. She lived out the first and greatest Commandment, to love and serve God with her whole heart. We can’t always write our own rules, but in following that one law, all the others fall into place.
–Retta Blaney, SCNY Associate
Retta Blaney is an Associate of the Sisters of Charity and author of Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors.
Sources: New Revised Standard Version Bible and The HarperCollins Bible Commentary.
Image: Detail of the Tomb Effigy of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck Frank Duveneck, (1848–1919), Date: 1891, cast 1927. Photo by Rick Morley