|Father Perry D. Leiker|
How one reads the scriptures has a lot of impact on the kind of faith that will develop and grow within them.
There is an old phrase: “The devil can quote scripture for his own purposes.”
One meaning of this is that scripture can be quoted to do harm or even horrible things. It also has to do with how we quote it, that is, in or out of context.
It has long been a Catholic tradition to discourage picking out a word or phrase of scripture and interpreting it completely out of context. Context isn’t everything, but it is almost everything. It can focus our understanding more clearly or even change the meaning of a passage completely. But to take a word or passage out of the scriptures, knowing its integrated meaning, allows it to retain its true sense and makes it much harder to be used for devilish purposes.
Today’s Gospel is a good example. It is not a blessing of the Ten Commandments or every one of the Jewish laws, even though Jesus said that he did not come to diminish or remove even a letter of the law. Knowing the whole of the Gospels — context — we know Jesus’ clear proclamation of the core, or center, of the law and what was most important to him.
Discussing it with others brought a clarifying reflection that it was "more important than all of the law and the prophets" and "more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice."
It can all be summed up, he said to: “love God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as your self.”
Knowing the importance of this passage, and integrating today’s Gospel into this larger context, is the key to understanding it.
Following this command is: to love God our Father; and to know the Father; and to live in the Father and the Father in us; and to know Jesus Christ; and to experience him remaining in us (not leaving us orphans); and to know the Spirit as advocate; and to know Jesus the Christ loving us and always revealing himself to us.
The entire Gospel today is understood, lived out, realized, proclaimed, and integrated into our lives, by knowing the two great commandments so central to Jesus’ message. This makes evangelization of the Gospel to the world a much more gentle activity of Christians.
We don’t need to be standing on a corner, screaming at others to accept Jesus as Lord and savior if they want to be saved. No. We can, rather, follow the advice found today in Chapter 3 of Peter’s first letter: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”
Integrating that passage and its meaning into our lives will lead us to sharing Jesus Christ gently by showing to others that he is the sanctification of our hearts and lives. This is testimony of the highest order. It is truly: “show and tell,” and it will have great impact in our lives.
Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email email@example.com.