Rules and Relationship

Today’s readings seem to be all about rules and following the rules. We start with Moses telling us to observe the statutes and decrees. He says that today is the day to start following the rules, not later. If we follow the rules, we will end up in a good place, with the Lord our God.

The responsorial says that those who follow the laws of the Lord are blessed. The laws are to be diligently kept. Keep the statutes or forsake the Lord. Pretty powerful stuff.

The Gospel sticks with the theme of obeying the rules, but gives an example of a softer rule to follow. Love your neighbor but also love your enemy. Love is a hard rule to check on, isn’t it?

Need to Know

As a confirmation teacher, we spend lots of time teaching the rules of the Catholic Church. To be a member of the Church, or a sports team, you need to know the rules. Would you show up to a golf match with a hockey stick, or use your hands to carry the soccer ball down the pitch? Of course not, because you need to know the rules to participate properly. But the Catholic faith is more than rules.

As teachers, we want students to know the rules, but the longer term goal, as the kids start to understand the rules, is that the God behind the rules, and his son Jesus, are the main reasons you want to understand and follow the rules. Following the rules shows your love, and love is the reason for the whole exercise. It really comes down to a relationship with Jesus.

Transition

Early in our lives we follow the rules so we don’t get in trouble, at home, at school , or around town. With the Church rules, like the 10 commandments, we are also that way…obey the rules, or you get lots of sins, and ultimately you get in big trouble. But lo and behold, we reach a point of maturity, with some guidance, that following the rules in order to show our love for God, rather than avoiding punishment, is the real goal. Does a child clean up his room every day in order to avoid a beating, or because he loves his Mom, and doesn’t want her to do extra work? That transition comes, eventually, for most people.

During this Lenten period, there are lots of rules going around. Pray more, give more alms, fast, try to avoid meat on Friday, and so on. For many, a successful Lent means checking off all those boxes. However, this Lent, try to put some Love for the Lord on your agenda. Pray because you want to, and want to deepen your relationship with Jesus. Go help someone, even if you don’t like them, because that would make Jesus happy. Go to confession because you want to repair any fraying in your relationship with God, rather than just making sure it gets done during this 40 day stretch before the Triduum.

Remain blessed.

[Readings: Dt 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48]

Paul Verderber

Paul Verderber is a husband, father of two daughters, religious education teacher, fruit and vegetable ingredients salesman, and President of Gratia Vobis Ministries, Inc. He holds both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Chemical Engineering, as well as a Masters in Business. He lives outside of Raleigh, North Carolina and is the President of Gratia Vobis Ministries. [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Chanele Jackon on March 4, 2023 at 3:14 pm

    I appreciate the concrete examples for showing love for others, especially an enemy. I wonder often how we show up for Mass to follow Catholic rules and to then walk out of Mass and hate people who look and act differently from us. I also don’t understand how the Church can stay quiet or make such little noise against racism, bigotry, injustice and other hateful behaviors yet support and back powerful people who show up daily with hateful messages and actions. I pray you are on point and the rule followers (including me) will mature and get to a place where we love and not hate, for this is what followers of Christ and the “rukes” do.

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