22 March 2017

Making good on our deal

3rd Week of Lent (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Back in the Dark Ages, music-lovers could join the Columbia House Record Club. Join up to buy just one cassette tape for $9.99 and you would receive ten free cassettes of your choosing! Sounds like a great deal. . .until you realize that ninety percent of their stock consisted of third-rate 70's disco bands and glam hair bands from the 80's. Of course, I signed up. Many, many times. Each month – for years – I'd receive a catalog in the mail with a reminder that I had to buy just one more cassette to fulfill my obligation. Just one more. On occasion I'd break down and buy something. Hoobastanks' They Sure Don't Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To, or Twisted Sisters' Love is for Suckers. Anything to stop the catalogs. Anything to get out from under the obligation. I discovered, however, that once you're member of the Columbia House Record Club, you are always a member. The catalogs don't stop. The pre-paid return envelopes don't stop. The glitter-glam bad hair guitar bands haunt your dreams. Forever. You make a deal under legal obligation, and there's no one to save you. 
The Jews made a deal with some legal obligations – though none of these involved monthly catalogs. As time moved away from the Original Deal, the terms of the contract began to grow, layer upon layer; the obligations piled up and the procedures for meeting one's obligations became more intricate. Underneath the desiccated barnacles of interpretation, application, amendment, and nuance the heart of the Original Deal still beat. Love God. Love self. Love neighbor. In order to expose the still beating heart of the Original Deal, God sent His only Son to become one of us, to assume – as his own – our inability to carry out of our end of the bargain, and to teach us how to live freely as children of the Original Deal Maker. In other words, Christ came to fulfill the terms of our deal, to meet all of our obligations under the Law. He did not accomplish this feat of mercy by sweeping away the Original Deal. He did it by bringing together in one divine person the perfection of God and the imperfections of man; by dying so that our imperfections might be made perfect; and by rising back to the Father, carrying with him everything that makes us prone to the sickness of sin and the permanency of death. The Law he fulfilled remains. 
The Original Deal still stands. Love God. Love self. Love neighbor. And do so knowing that your failures have already been forgiven.

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