Kathleen N. Hattrup – published on 02/13/23

Our understanding of God is at the root of this danger in living (or not living) the faith …

Fulfilling the “rules” of religion is good and necessary, but we can’t get stuck just doing the bare minimum or following the letter of the law. This was Pope Francis’ message before praying Sunday’s midday Angelus, as he reflected on the Gospel reading.

“Jesus makes us understand that religious rules are necessary, they are good, but they are only the beginning: to fulfill them, it is necessary to go beyond the letter and live their meaning,” he said.

At the heart of this is our understanding of God, the Pope explained. We can’t be “limited to an exterior, detached religiosity, servants of ‘God the Master’ rather than children of ‘God the Father.’

Jesus wants this: not to have the idea of serving a God the Master, but the Father; and this is why it is necessary to go beyond the letter.

Just as in Jesus’ time, today there are those who want to be satisfied with “just being good.”

For example, we hear it said, ‘Father, I have not killed, I have not stolen, I have not harmed anyone…,’ as if to say, ‘I am fine.’ This is formal observance, which is satisfied with the bare minimum, whereas Jesus invites us to aspire to the maximum possible. That is: God does not reason with calculations and tables; he loves us as one who is enamoured: not to the minimum, but to the maximum! He does not say, ‘I love you up to a certain point.’ No, true love is never up to a certain point, and is never satisfied; love always goes beyond …

Pope Francis invited us to ask if our faith life is a matter of formalisms or “a love story with God?”

Am I content merely with not doing harm, of keeping the ‘façade’ in good order, or do I try to grow in love for God and others? And every now and then, do I check myself on Jesus’ great commandment, do I ask myself if I love my neighbour as He loves me? Because perhaps we are inflexible in judging others and forget to be merciful, as God is with us.

May Mary, who observed the Word of God perfectly, help us to give fulfilment to our faith and our charity.

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