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Dear Friends,
Before returning to the reflections of the Holy Father – an up-date on the question of the deck. I received 29 responses, 28 of which were positive and one was ambivalent. I do want to clarify something. The deck would not be built exactly over the garages. If it happens, it would be built in the area over the retaining wall where the rectory meets the church. It is a smaller area, but sufficient, with more privacy, less visibility. If you remember my column last week, there was a third consideration – usage. Would it really be used? That question is still open, but thanks to all who replied.

Now, back to the reflections of Pope Francis.

Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning!
Let us continue speaking about the Commandments which, as we have said, more than commandments are the words of God to his people to help them journey properly; obeying the Father’s loving words.

The Ten Words begin this way: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2). This beginning would seem foreign to the true and proper laws that follow. But it is not so.

Why does God make this proclamation about himself and about liberation? Because one reaches Mt. Sinai after having crossed the Red Sea: the God of Israel first saves, then asks for trust. In other words: the Decalogue begins from God’s generosity. God never asks without giving first. First, he saves: first he gives; then he asks. Such is our Father: a good God.

Let us understand the importance of the first declaration: “I am the Lord, your God.” There is a possessive, there is a relationship; there is belonging. God is not extraneous: he is your God. This illuminates the entire Decalogue and also reveals the secret of Christian action, because it is the very same attitude of Jesus, who says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (Jn 15:9). Christ is loved by the Father, and he loves us with that love. He puts not himself but the Father first. Often our deeds fail because we put ourselves, and not gratitude first. And one who begins with himself: where does he end up? He ends up with himself! He is incapable of making headway; he turns in on himself. It is precisely this selfish attitude that, in jest, people say: “that person is just I; me with me and for me.” He begins and ends with himself.

Christian life is above all the grateful response to a generous Father. Christians who only fulfill their duties do not have a personal experience with that God who is ours. I must do this, this, that… Only duties. But you lack something! What is the foundation of this duty? The foundation of this duty is the love of God the Father, who gives first, then commands.

Placing the law before the relationship does not help the journey of faith. How can a young person want to be Christian, if we start with obligations, responsibilities, consistency and not with liberation? But being a Christian is a journey of liberation. The Commandments free you from your selfishness and free you because it is God’s love that leads you forward. Christian formation is not based on willpower, but on the acceptance of salvation, on letting oneself be loved: first the Red Sea, then Mount Sinai. First salvation: God saves his people in the Red Sea; then on Sinai he tells them what they have to do. But those people know that they are doing these things because they have been saved by a Father who loves them.

Gratitude is a characteristic of a heart that has been visited by the Holy Spirit. In order to obey God, it is above all necessary to remember his benefits. Saint Basil says: “Those who do not let such benefits fall into disregard orient themselves towards good virtue and towards all works of justice.” Where does all this take us? To perform a memory exercise; how many wonderful things God has done for each of us! How generous our Heavenly Father is! I would now like to propose a small exercise in silence. Each can answer in his or her own heart. How many beautiful things has God done for me? This is the question. Let each of us reply in silence. How many beautiful things has God done for me? And this is the liberation of God. God does many beautiful things and he frees us.

And yet some may feel that they have not yet truly experienced God’s liberation. This can happen. It may be that one looks inside oneself and finds only a sense of duty, a spirituality of servants, not of sons and daughters. What should be done in this case? As the Chosen People did. The Book of Exodus reads: “And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition.” (Ex 2:23-25). God thinks of me.

God’s liberating action placed at the beginning of the Decalogue – that is, the Commandments – is the response to this groaning. We do not save ourselves on our own, but a cry for help can escape us: “Lord, save me; Lord teach me the way; Lord, caress me; Lord, give me some joy.” This is a cry for help. It is up to us to ask to be liberated from selfishness, from sin, from the chains of slavery. This cry is important. It is prayer; it is being conscious of what is still oppressed and not liberated within us. There are many things fettered in our soul. “Save me, help me, set me free.” This is a beautiful prayer to the Lord. God awaits that cry because he can and wants to break our chains. God did not call us to life to remain oppressed but rather to be free and to live in gratitude, obeying with joy to the One who has given us so much, infinitely more than we could ever give to him. His is beautiful. May God always be blessed for all that he has done, does and will do
within us!
- Pope Francis

God Bless,
Fr. Ron

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