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Posts Tagged ‘Mel Brooks’

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God Asks More of Us

Fans of Mel Brooks fondly recall the movie scene in which Moses has just descended to the foot of Mount Sinai and he’s eager to tell everyone about his chat with God.  Toting three bulky stone tablets on which are inscribed the law, he excitedly announces the terms of the covenant to his fellow Hebrews.  “Behold, the Lord has given us these FIFTEEN — (crash) — TEN commandments!  Who knew that Moses could think so quickly on his feet?

For the record I want to assert that I don’t believe that this is how Moses edited the commandments down to ten, but that’s where it’s been ever since.  It’s a convenient number;  they’re not too complicated;  and for the most part those ten are not all that hard to follow.  I for one have had no trouble with killing people or major theft, but I’ll admit some difficulty with calling down the wrath of God on certain other people.

05B9F330-E6F0-4B45-A217-A41960B78017However, the relative ease of keeping those ten has always troubled me.  Why did God set such a low bar for us?  Why didn’t God ask a little more of us?  Did God in fact expect more us and only intended that the Ten Commandments be little more than a good start?

A few days ago I happened to read Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18, and then it hit me.   God did have bigger plans for us, and the Ten Commandments were merely the start of some much more demanding standards.  The passage begins with commands that the Hebrews already knew.  “You shall not steal.  You shall not speak falsely to one another.  You shall not swear falsely by my name.”  But then come some real surprises that weren’t in the original agreement with God.  “You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.  You shall not curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block in front of the blind.”  Moses goes on to list several others, but two in particular stand out as pretty demanding, at least in my books:  “Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty….Nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.”

2FF7DFB7-FF25-4895-A7E6-8A8547F95799Had those been in the final draft of the commandments I’m not so sure I would have rubber-stamped them.  Those require a level of self-awareness that challenges the best of us.  Therein is the point of the covenant.  God doesn’t want a bare minimum of observance but prefers instead a commitment that is transformative for us.  God asks the best of us, and the Hebrews should not have allowed themselves to be lulled into thinking that God would stop with the first edition of the Ten Commandments.

Of course Jesus took it all one step further.  While ten was a nice number, he was content to pare back the number to two.  And if by chance that sounds like a pretty good deal, consider this.  Is it easier to refrain from killing and stealing, or easier to love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself?

If Jesus sets a pretty high bar for us, it’s good for us to take that into account in our Lenten observance.  On the one hand it’s important to set achievable goals, and if refraining from treats or one of life’s other little pleasures is part of your Lenten regimen, well and good.  But a bit of perspective is always in order.  Those little disciplines serve to remind us of the noble and beautiful lives to which God calls each of us.  God expects more of us than we might imagine, but that merely shows God’s confidence in us.

85198045-9288-435D-80A1-C3BF2B2E86A6NOTES

+On 11 March I flew to Fort Myers, FL, where I spent the week visiting friends and alumni of Saint John’s.  The week began with a reception which highlighted our Immokalee Scholarship Program.  This May the first two students from Immokalee will graduate from Saint John’s, and one of those seniors — Alex — spoke to our group on March 12th.  As he has on other occasions, he did a superb job.

+On March 17th I said Mass at the home of an alumnus in Naples, FL, and twenty-five people were in attendance.  This is the second year I’ve done this, and we are now scheduled to do it again next year.

+The photos in todays post show some of the extraordinary scenery of Petra, in Jordan.  It is  a 1st-3rd century city, with a half-mile canyon entrance that was featured in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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