Monday, November 21, 2011

The commandments of Jesus

The new English translation of the Roman Missal is about to come into use in the United States.  It has been in partial use in England since September.  It appears, however, that not only Roman Catholics have prepared to switch from the current Sacramentary to the new Roman Missal.  Some Anglicans are (or were) getting ready to make the change as well.  But the Anglican Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, is not at all supportive of that initiative; in a pastoral letter released last Friday, he made this clear:
For those who remain [in the Church of England] there can be no logic in the claim to be offering the Eucharist in communion with the Roman Church which the adoption of the new rites would imply. In these rites there is not only a prayer for the Pope but the expression of a communion with him; a communion Pope Benedict XVI would certainly repudiate.


Priests and parishes which do adopt the new rites – with their marked divergences from the ELLC texts and in the altered circumstances created by the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to join the Ordinariate – are making a clear statement of their disassociation not only from the Church of England but from the Roman Communion as well.
You can read the letter yourself.  There is one small detail from the letter I wish to focus on, certainly not the main thrust of the letter by any means, but a Christian meme I have heard from time to time.  Bishop Chartres said that "among the very few commandments that [Jesus] gave to us is 'Do this in remembrance of me.'"

Jesus did tell His disciples — and us — to do quite a bit!
  • Do not swear at all (Matthew 5:33ff)
  • Do not repay evil for evil (Matthew 5:38ff)
  • Give to those who ask of you (Matthew 5:42)
  • Do your acts of charity in secret (Matthew 6:2ff)
  • Do not lay up treasure on earth (Matthew 6:19ff)
  • Do not be anxious about anything (Matthew 6:25ff)
  • Do to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12)
That's just a brief selection from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is depicted as the new Moses.  As Moses received and dispensed the commandments of God, so too Jesus issues commandments.  There's more in the rest of the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament.

Especially during this week following the Feast of Christ the King, I think we should avoid a reductionist view of the Gospel, of the commandments of our Lord.  There's more to it than simply "Do this in memory of me."  There are, of course, the two greatest commandments which sum up the whole of the law and the prophets, and without which that awesome Eucharistic commandment is of no avail.  And, as St. Paul reminds us, love is the fulfilling of the law.

So perhaps we can say Jesus did give us few commandments — love God and love your neighbor — and then explained in detail just how we are to do so.

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