My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy we heard:
The Word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Now listen to the New Testament and recognize the difference:
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. (John 1:14)
That first reading almost all religions can accept, for all have their own teachings which they hand down over the generations with like encouragement: ‘the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it’. And the peoples thus shepherded do think that they can obey the teaching they have received -- whatever it may be -- and find the salvation promised by, for example, Mahomet, Confucius, Buddha, and others; all following the same principle: listen, learn, do, and you will find what is promised. And, in the book of Deuteronomy, we heard what actually was promised in the Old Testament:
The Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock, and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as He delighted in your fathers. (30:9)
Promises were made which would attract mankind: prosperity, children, success and security ... everyone can appreciate such things, and most indeed want them ardently. Such promises were given to encourage the Chosen People to do what all religious mankind likes to think they can do: listen to the teaching, learn from it, and then practise it in order to then receive the promised rewards.
However, the People of Israel were God’s Chosen People and though they tried for nearly two thousand years they never fully succeeded in keeping God’s Law, and that was the purpose of God’s Providence, because they alone of all peoples had to learn and could learn the existential fact and spiritual truth that sin was in the world and was indeed ruling over men:
As it is written, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’ (Romans 3:10)
The revelationary fact is that God was leading His Chosen People – ultimately for the good of mankind -- to a previously unappreciated awareness of the human condition and the unfathomed depth of human sinfulness; and thus – most gently and gradually -- opening their minds and hearts to an initial comprehension of the hidden presence and power of sin in mens lives and of Satan’s personal dominion over them ... before ultimately leading them to a stark and crystal-clear realization that their need for salvation and the price of their redemption could only be met by the infinite goodness, power, and faithfulness of the one true God of their fathers: ‘don’t think you have only hear the truth and you will recognise it and be able to practise it; you are in far, far greater need than that!’
The Word became flesh and lived among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The Word was not just audible sounds making instructive teaching; no, the Word was a Person, the very Person of the Son of God, and Christian salvation would come from faith in Him, communion with Him, and obedience to the Spirit He bestows on His disciples:
Jesus answered, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
The promises made in the New Testament are not for earthly joys on a bigger and grander scale, for as we learn from St. John (1:12-13):
To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God; children born not of natural descent, not of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Through faith in, communion with, Jesus, we are called -- by His Spirit -- to love God our Father as His adopted children:
With all our heart and with all our soul, and with all our strength and with all our mind.
And for the ultimate glory of the Father Who loved us and sent His beloved Son among us as our Saviour and Redeemer, we must also come to:
To love our neighbour as ourselves. (Luke 10:27)
Only thus would the ultimate prayer of Jesus (John 17:23) be fulfilled:
That they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that You (Father) sent Me, and have loved them even as You have loved Me.
And so, People of God, let us all clearly recognise that we are not just to hear the teaching handed down – the teaching of Jesus and of His Church – and try to keep it of ourselves; because we most certainly cannot keep it of ourselves and any attempt to do so would be thinking presumptuously of ourselves and showing no true appreciation of Jesus our Saviour. We have to aim in all things at communion with Jesus, that is why He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist:
Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remain in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (John 6:53-57)
Through Jesus’ presence, and obedience to the Spirit He bestows on us in the Eucharist, and through the manifold helps provided by our sharing in the life and communion of Mother Church, we can, and must, learn to love Him supremely Who became a human being like us, because, as St. Paul tells us (Colossians 1:16, 20):
All things were created through Him and for Him, and God the Father wants all things to be reconciled through Him and for Him;
and then will be fulfilled those words of the Psalmist:
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn and your cause like the noonday sun. (37:5-6)