The Letter and the Spirit
Wednesday, June 14th Gospel Reflection
“But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."
Raising five children who span nine years between the oldest and youngest has been a spiritually enlightening endeavor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church holds true when it reads, “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents. Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents.” (CCC 2226-2227)
One of the areas in which I have grown is in the way of obedience through relationship. As a first-time parent, and being both prior service, my husband and I had a militaristic way of looking at rules and obedience. For our oldest two boys, we treated them like the Israelites in the Old Testament: the earth would open and swallow any child who disobeyed. The phrase “put the fear of God in them” was our objective. However, the youngest two, our “Sons of Thunder,” were impervious to these types of tactics. Thankfully, because our walk with Christ had grown considerably over the nine years, we were able to change how we parented. Instead of gripping on to the “Letter of the Law” we let go and allowed the “Spirit of the Law” to take over. The older children observed this change in their parents, and even though they claim the “parents got soft on you little turds,” they see that it’s not so much parents getting soft, but parents understanding how God loves us and expects obedience from us for a higher purpose.
God does not want to open the earth and swallow you whole, nor does he want to threaten and cajole. He wants you to obey for the love of Him. And this happens through relationship. The oldest son is now driving, working two jobs, and has the absolute freedom to come and go as he pleases. We spend Saturday mornings drinking coffee together on the couch, discussing vocations and work struggles. Guidance and rules are met with docility and understanding, and when lines are crossed and mom gets mad, there’s always an “I’m sorry, momma” that follows pretty soon thereafter, because that relationship and closeness is threatened.
The older of the two “Sons of Thunder” has a mom who watches him lose his absolute crap at the pool when he accidentally drops his snow cone and rails against the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she then quietly sits in the car with him and gently talks about suffering. She reveals to him that good always comes from suffering if we wait and give God praise in all things. The “Son of Thunder” turns to a light rain and absorbs the wisdom. A day later she reminds him that when he got home from the pool, there was $5 from his grandmother in a card that would be able to buy 5 snow cones. God knew all these things were going to happen. Not only was there a lesson in suffering, but there was also an immediate response from a God who sees and a God who cares.
These familial lessons move from obedience to God’s law to the advanced level of praising God in the good and the bad out of love for Him. Our love for Him, our love for each other, introduces a relationship that has depth. We aren’t obeying for our own sake but out of a definitive understanding of how our actions impact our level of closeness to our Creator, and this was only possible through His Son Jesus Christ. Praise and honor and glory be to our God forever. Let our souls magnify the Lord in our obedience to Him both in the Letter and the Spirit. Amen.
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