13th Sunday after Pentecost 7.9.14 Law and Covenant
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity, and that we may worthily obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou dost command (Collect prayer of today’s Mass)
We pray to love the laws of God, because they express the love God has towards us.
St Paul, in the epistle, explains the relationship between Covenant and Law. The basic point is that while we should keep God’s laws that itself will not save us. It will make it more likely that we are saved but salvation itself can come only from God’s free gift to us.
Catholics are accused of trying to earn their salvation, by doing lots of good works, as though to impress God enough to let us into Heaven.
This is not the case. We regard salvation as a free gift of God, but we understand that to receive that gift we have to do certain things and avoid certain other things.
This is where the laws (or commands) of God come into operation.
The laws are there to help us know what to do: eg go to Mass on Sundays, help those in need, forgive those who harm you… And avoid certain things: do not steal, do not lie, do not commit adultery…
If we get these things right most of the time, and sincerely repent when we get them wrong, we are pre-disposing ourselves to receive the free gift of salvation.
If we were to neglect all these commands then there is the danger that we will forfeit the gift that has been offered to us.
Take a simple example: you have a rich friend who lends you his holiday house for free for two weeks. If you take the offer of course it is understood that you would look after the house and leave it in a tidy state etc. If you trash the house you will not only not get the offer again but you would be likely to lose the friendship.
So it is with our relationship with God, with the difference that He is more forgiving than the average person. We can restore a damaged relationship with God, but even there we have to do certain things, like Confession, penance, change our behaviour.
It comes down to this: God loves us, but we may not love Him.
To love Him we have to know Him. This is a lifetime work as we experience His love in many different ways. As we recognize His blessings we express Gratitude, like the one leper who came back.
Gratitude makes us want to please God in all things. Not to impress Him with how good we are, but simply in response to His goodness to us.
If we do not respond to His love we could lose our covenant relationship with God. He will not stop loving us; but we might stop loving Him. This is the way to Hell. We have to be aware this is possible, so we can take the proper steps to avoid such a fate.
To be saved is not that difficult if we simply keep the will of God in view. He will provide the grace to do the right things and avoid the wrong things.
He will enable us to receive and retain the gift of salvation.
We are on our way to Heaven and we will complete that way, simply by doing His will; or at least by confessing our sorrow for not doing so, and making another start.