Why do You Obey the Commandments?

Homily, 10-10-22; Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time:

We should all try to obey the Commandments and avoid sinful behaviors. But what is our motivation? Are we free or are we slaves? Are we like children who want to be obedient out of love for our parents, or are we like slaves who obey their master out of fear of punishment?

Muslims, Jews, and Christians all trace their faith back to Abraham. He is often referred to as Father Abraham. Some associate the Muslims with Ishmael, Abraham’s son by his slave Hagar. God told Abraham that Ishmael was not the heir he had promised to him. The Jews are associated with Isaac, Abraham’s son by his wife Sarah. And St. Paul tells us in our reading from Saturday’s Mass: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”

St. Paul uses Hagar and Sarah as an analogy for slavery vs. freedom as he begs the Galatians not to abandon their new found freedom that came to them along with their believe in Jesus Christ. He sees some falling back to an emphasis on strictly following Mosaic Law, rather than accepting the freedom that Christianity offers them. And in this way, he represents Judaism with Hagar and Christianity with Sarah. In this way, Sarah’s descendants are Christians who are the true heirs to the promise made by God to Abraham—the promise that he would be the father of a multitude of nations.

And today we can see a difference in our belief in God vs the belief in God in Islam. In Judaism and Christianity we believe that we are formed in the image and likeness of God. The Muslims do not share this belief, and do not even allow images of Allah. We see God as a loving Father who wants us to love Him in return. Muslims see God as their master who demands obedience or face severe punishment.

St. Paul reminds us: “Brothers and sisters, we are children not of the slave woman but of the freeborn woman.” And so, as Christians, we need to examine the motivation for our behavior. Are we free from the slavery to sin? Do we see God as a loving Father, and ourselves as adoptive sons and daughter, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ? What is our image of God? Do we want to be obedient and do what is right because we love Him in return and do not want to offend or disappoint Him? Let us try to ever grow in virtue so that we do not avoid sin out fear of punishment, but so we break the yoke slavery to sin and are no longer attracted to it.

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