Do we remember as kids not wanting to brush our teeth? It was an obligation. We only did it after being asked multiple times or after being warned of punishment. And what changed when we grew older… was it not that we started to “like someone?” All of a sudden we were brushing our teeth multiple times per day, chewing gum any time between. Winterfresh, Tic-Tacs, Binacha, Mentos! We go well beyond obligation when we like someone, when we want to grow in relationship. So what about God, do we like him? (see scripture readings)
We know God “likes us.” He made us who we are. He called us into being out of nothing. Exactly the way he would like us naturally. If you were capable of making a new nature of being, wouldn’t you make something that you liked? We know he likes us. He didn’t put us in a box, he created a whole universe around us: the sky, the stars, moons, suns, mountains, oceans, trees, streams, fish, and puppy dogs.
We also know he likes us because he invites us to live with him eternally. Not for a weekend, not for a month. He gave us immortal souls; he invites us to live with him forever. How many of us can say that about even our closest friends? We like them to come visit us for a weekend, but would we want them to stay forever? God likes us more than enough to invite us to live with him forever.
How do we respond to our Lord’s feelings toward us? We should be excited, we should brush our teeth in anticipation of growing in relation with him. So what is the mustard seed of responses to our Lord’s feelings?
The Church has done this work for us. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in consultation with Scripture, and in prayer; she has discerned and specified five things that we shall do in order to consistently grow in relationship with God. These are called the five precepts of the Church. She says that these are meant to “guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor”. They are:
1) We shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”. Okay so many of us know this one, but maybe we forget the second part, resting from the type of work which keeps this day from being set apart. It’s not that we can’t work on these days, but our work must be directed toward love of God and neighbor. The day must be different than the other days, in our worship, our activity, and our rest, more directed toward God and toward love.
2) We shall confess our sins at least once a year… except for the Bishop. Wait it doesn’t say that. Even the bishop confesses his sins. Why is this? God wants us to have an experience of his mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance at least every year, even if we don’t have serious sin, so that we can better share his mercy with others.
3) We shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. This is a peculiar precept, because all of us are used to receiving the Eucharist whenever we can, but it hasn’t always been so. Some have had devotions which led them to choose to receive it only rarely. The Church accepts various reasons, but during Easter all who are able, ought to receive the Eucharist because it is the origin and center of our life with God.
4) We shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church. The days of fasting are Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday. The days of abstinence are the Fridays of Lent. We will talk more of this during Lent, but some go beyond this, fasting every Friday of the year.
5) We shall help to provide for the needs of the Church. This is our favorite precept right? Not really, please Fr. Jason stop talking to us about fundraisers! So why is this important… The support and care of the ministers and the needy, has always involved the help of the whole assembly. The traveling apostles needed help, St. Paul for example. He would come to your town and need a place to stay, and a place to invite everyone to assembly for worship, a home. We liked when they visited, and overtime we had enough for them to stay with us permanently, but instead putting them up in our own homes; instead of having hundreds of guests over for worship on a regular basis; we built their own places for them to stay… parishes. Today our parishes are wonderful locations for the Word of God and the Sacraments, and they need our time, talent, treasure to function.
The bottom line is that God likes us; and this awakens our affection for him. Like brushing our teeth for someone we like, the precepts of the Church should not feel like obligations, but as opportunities. They are the mustard seed of responses through which the salvation, the transformation, and the divination of humanity is promised and guaranteed.