And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him – 1 John 2:3-4
I have probably mentioned this before, that I used to think I had to obey God first before he would accept me, or even meet me. I thought that I would never get to know him unless I obeyed all the commandments and requirements of the Church.
I found out that this was the completely wrong order. Jesus would meet sinners first (some of these sinners were considered outcasts by society), and let them get to know him, and only later would many of them follow him and obey his commands.
The verse above is taken from the first reading for today. It is the very first verse in the reading, and it talks about knowing God, knowing the Lord. God wants us to know him, and to communicate with him, and he wants to explain to us his commandments. When we hear from God directly and listen to his explanations, we will obey these commandments easier. I don’t believe God simply gives commands and expects us to follow them blindly. He is willing to tell us why his commandments are that way. We should be also willing to ask, since some of God’s commandments appear difficult to follow. But with a clear explanation and communication from God, these commandments become much easier as we may even begin to agree with them.
Here is an example. A person from a small village visits a shopping mall in a big city for the first time in his life for a holiday. He has not been educated on the bad effects of smoking. He wants to smoke, but his friend tells him he is not allowed to smoke inside this mall. His friend then points to a ‘no smoking’ sign. He will obey, but he may feel somewhat disappointed in this holiday, at the lack of freedom and the restrictions this big city has compared to his village.
Now let’s look at a person who grew up in the city and is studying to be a doctor and understands the harmful effects of smoking, and has decided never to smoke. When that person sees a ‘no smoking’ sign, he may feel glad as that sign, and these restrictions in the city, may help the overall health of the people living there. This makes him love the regulations and rules of the city as it is more organized and he understands their benefits.
In the second example, the person had more revelation and knowledge of the reasons behind the laws and restrictions, so the laws are not a burden to him.
God wants to give this same clarity to us. The bible is full of laws and restrictions, but only by knowing God, letting him speak directly to us and listening to him often, will we understand why those laws are there, and we will obey them much easily. We may even obey them gladly.
The Gospel reading for today actually gives us a small example here.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law – Luke 2:25 & 27
Other translations say Simeon was ‘prompted by the spirit’ to go to the temple.
Knowing God through the Holy Spirit will make us obey him through promptings and gentle urges. And we will obey willingly and not be in such a sour mood.
Because Simeon knew God, he obeyed, and he got to see the baby Jesus. And he happily said this words as he blessed God.
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Lord, help us to know you first, and to know you well, for this will help us obey your commands joyfully and not out of obligation. Give us a desire to sit at your feet and listen to you more and more, and learn more from you as you teach us what your commands mean. And then help us follow them joyfully and faithfully. Amen. God bless and Mother Mary prays for you. Fiat Lux! [JOEY/CIL]