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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Spiritual laws and structures reflect God living in us

When we follow the physical, moral and spiritual structure God built into the universe, we bear good fruit

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We hear the creation accounts from the Book of Genesis this week. In the first account (Genesis 1), creation is accomplished by God speaking 10 times. Interestingly, the ancient Israelites referred to the Ten Commandments as the “Ten Words.” It’s no accident that the 10 “words” of Creation (the 10 times God speaks) and the 10 “words” of the Law (the Ten Commandments) were seen as connected to each other. According to the biblical tradition, the physical and moral structures of the universe reflect and reinforce each other.

That should make us wonder: Is there also a structure to the spiritual universe that can guide our lives?

This week we hear a series of healing episodes from Jesus. To heal is to restore. What did Jesus come to restore? Not just the body, but also and primarily God’s image in us, which was damaged by the Fall.

Here, once again, we can wonder: What are some signs of God’s image being restored in us, and are those signs related to the spiritual structure of the universe?

St. John Paul II called our attention to “the law of the gift” — that we truly find ourselves by making a gift of ourselves. We see that in Jesus, in the Eucharist, and we know it from our own experience. Perhaps that’s a law of the spiritual universe and a sign of God’s life in us.

Consider how growth often comes through suffering — what we might call “the law of the cross.” We see it in Jesus’ cross, and we know it from our own experience. Perhaps that’s also a law of the spiritual universe and a sign of God’s life in us.

Consider how God always seems to be choosing the lowly — what we might call the “law of humility.” Jesus comes in flesh, not in majesty. He comes to Nazareth, not Rome. His mother is constantly choosing the lowly: Juan Diego, Fatima, Lourdes. As St. Paul says, God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

These are just a few examples of things that seem to be “laws” of the spiritual world and signs of God’s life in us. I think they’re worth exploring not only because the question comes up through the readings this week, but also because they offer us a way to think about parish life.

When we think about parishes as part of the All Things New process, it’s easy to look at and talk about numbers: the number of Catholics in an area, the number of people who come to Church, the number of priests who serve a population. But that was never meant to be the end of the story. Numbers are just an entry point into thinking about whether a parish shows signs of living according to the spiritual structure that God builds into the world.

Are we going to realign some things according to numbers? Yes. But what we’re really aiming for is for parishes to live into the life-giving spiritual structures God built into the world. That means we need to think, together, about what those structures are. The “law of multiplication” — that disciples make disciples — is surely one of those laws.

The ancient Israelites knew that when we follow the physical, moral and spiritual structure God built into the universe, we bear good fruit. That awareness is written into the Scriptures in various ways this week. Let’s think about that lesson together, and how it might apply to our own circumstances.

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