The sermon that I heard delivered at church this morning included an interesting line. It was delivered by Rev. Dennis O’Donnell, who said that “many Catholics today are actually very good Jews.”
What he was referring to, as he went on to explain, is that in his experiences in talking to many Catholics, it seems to be their opinion is that all they need to do is to follow the Ten Commandments.
You know the Ten Commandments: Keep Holy the Sabbath, Thou Shalt Not Kill, Honor Your Father and Mother, and all the rest? Ten rules given by God to Moses, the “Old Covenant”, written down clearly on stone tablets, passed on to the Chosen People, and then to all of us down through the millenia.
Keep the Ten Commandments, and go to heaven when you die. So what’s the problem? The problem is that makes you a good Jew. Nothing wrong with that at all…if you are Jewish.
But if you are a Catholic, which makes you a Christian, then more is expected of you. You see, Christians are expected to follow and as best as possible emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ.
As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians, Christ’s message is written “not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.“
This “New Covenant” has at its center the fact that Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and his people. And at the center of Jesus’ teaching is a new commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.“
I know many agnostics, even atheists, who follow Jesus’ new commandment better than many Christians.
Now that is not to say that these agnostics or atheists don’t have their own problem. They do, and it’s a big one. Jesus also put it in a very straightforward message: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“
For the well-meaning good-deed-doer agnostics and atheists, they will always suffer from their denial of Christ.
But many Christians, despite a heart-felt belief in Jesus as their savior, risk suffering just as much, even if they are doing their best to follow the Ten Commandments.
We are called to love one another, as Jesus loved us. How did Jesus love us? What does that call for us to do, on a practical level? That is a big question, that will take an examination of his life and teachings.
The good news is that his life and teachings are not hidden. They are not something you need to take a college course in order to learn. They are right there in the New Testament in your Bible.
Our responsibility within the New Covenant? Pick up your Bible. Read the New Testament regularly. Learn more about how Jesus loved. And then love one another in that same way.