Memorial of Saint Clare of Assisi, virgin
(Deuteronomy 4: 32-40; Matthew 16:24-28)
The Book of Deuteronomy reads like a reflective summary of the first four books of the Pentateuch. It literally means second law: that is, the review of the law that God gave Moses for Israel. In today’s reading Moses exhorts the people to remember all the good things that the Lord has done for them and to respond to His love by being faithful to His commands.
God’s goodness began with His choosing Israel from all the peoples of the earth to be especially His own. Certainly Abraham trusted God, but there were other faithful men and women people whom God did not choose to parent His people. God also rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt in quite astounding ways. Finally, God taught His people justice so that they might prosper not just for a generation or a century but forever.
However God’s plan was not to limit Himself to the Semitic nation on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Rather, he meant to include all nations into His people. This has been accomplished through His Son, Jesus. If Deuteronomy is a second law in the sense that it reviews the law already given, Jesus gives a fresh second law that touches deeper dimensions of the human spirit. Today’s gospel expresses part of what Jesus’ law entails: anyone and everyone might join God’s people by choosing to walk with him. Like Jesus we are not to evade our responsibilities – our crosses. Rather we are to carry them out to completion.