When I was a teenager, I, pretty typically, didn’t like rules. And I remember being overwhelmed with how many rules there were in the bible that it nearly made me leave the faith. It felt like God was this petty divine rule maker and then punisher for those who couldn’t keep up with his 1000s of rules. But today’s readings offer a beautiful and tender counter-image to teenage me, a God who is kind and merciful.
Do you notice in the first reading, the Ten Commandments come right at the end, after Moses begs for God to keep close to Israelites? The ten commandments were given by God to Moses for a way for the people to get to know their God and to keep close to him. But so, too, the lord would not be perfect in his tenderness if he was not also perfect in his justice. Letting “nothing go unchecked” (Ex 34:7)
The commandments and ‘rules’ we find in the bible are not just there to get you in trouble or because God said so, but because he loves us and wants to give us the road map to this life. So, in today’s gospel mentioning of fire, weeping, and grinding of teeth; it is not a threat but of divine mercy. Jesus begs for anyone with ears to listen because he knows that his father is truly abundantly rich in kindness, faithfulness and love, and he only ever wants to pour that out on his children.
I invite you today to turn face to face to the God of tenderness and compassion and rest in his mercy.
Claire O’Donohue is a current Oxley Passionist Youth Retreat Team member. While also in her final year of university, she is completing her bachelor’s degree with a major in visual art and theology.