Opening the Word: The Law's horizon

By:

Many residents of the United States distrust law. Yes, Americans appreciate basic traffic laws, legal prescriptions protecting children and regulations that safeguard us against stealing and murder. But such law is viewed as a series of naughts. Thou shall not do this or that. The rest of your life is up to you, and no one should tell you otherwise.

Israel’s view of the Law bestowed by God on Mount Sinai is not that of an average American. God’s law, as we hear in Sirach, is a matter of life and death. To keep the Law is to choose life, to deny the Law is to choose destruction.

The one who disobeys the Law is participating in the disorder of the world, the desecration of the goodness of creation given by God. Injustice is not a private affair but will elicit God’s judgment. It is death.

For this reason, the Law itself is an endless source of joy for Israel. The one who studies the Law enters (as far as human beings may) the mind of God, discovering the source of true happiness. The person appropriates this law, writing it upon the heart, coming to delight in its precepts.

The giving of alms, the protection of the widow and the orphan, avoiding adultery — all of it is a source of wisdom, bringing one toward salvation. Psalm 119 is the longest psalm, an acrostic with each section beginning with a Hebrew letter. The whole psalm is dedicated to a salutary meditation on the Law.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus announces that he has not come to void this law, to erase even a dot or a tittle. Obeying the commandments given by God is the way to enter the kingdom of heaven.

In fact, Jesus intensifies the Law, requiring that the fervent observer of the Law move beyond servile obedience toward the interior logic of love found within each dot and title of the Law.

It’s not enough to avoid murdering someone. One must stop being angry, learning to love one’s neighbor, seeking forgiveness before one approaches the altar.

It’s not enough to avoid adultery, the act of sexual infidelity. Lust itself is the source of adultery, and it must be rooted out. A bill of divorce may have been allowed because of the hardness of heart, but if one is to be a citizen of the kingdom of God, returning to God’s original plan for creation, one should avoid all divorce.

It’s not enough to avoid lying, giving a false oath. The sacredness of the divine name should not be used in such oaths since it trivializes what has been revealed by God. Say yes or no, avoid excessive claims and recognize the fragility of the human condition. Our knowledge of the world is not the same as God’s.

Jesus doesn’t erase the Law but extends its horizon, in a way that will challenge any disciple. What would it mean to become the kind of person who feels no anger, who is not disturbed by lust, who recognizes one’s fragility before God?

It would mean that one was pursuing holiness, allowing the foolish wisdom of God to shape our whole lives.

The interpretation of the Law provided by Jesus, in this sense, is not a checklist easily accomplished. It is a horizon of holiness given to the Church and each of her believers.

The disciple learns to love this horizon. And such love, as the Gospels show, comes to us as a gift, as divine grace.

Feb. 16 — Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sir 15:15-20
Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
1 Cor 2:6-10
Mt 5:17-37

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

The importance of community in a time of isolation

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
By: Russell Shaw So much has been said and written about the novel coronavirus that if words could stem a pandemic, we would all long since... Read More

The sacrifices we make: What it means to be a Christian under lockdown

Monday, March 30, 2020
By: Leonard J. DeLorenzo The effectiveness of nations and states’ efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus depends on broad social... Read More

Opening the Word: The sweetness of love has overcome the foul stench of death

Friday, March 27, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. The evangelist, John, is not just providing a chance detail to the reader.... Read More

Without weekly collections, parishes facing financial stress amid the pandemic

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
By:  Brian Fraga Msgr. Charles Kosanke has told his parish staff that he can keep them employed full-time until April 6. After that, he has no... Read More

In times of crisis, the Church has a history of stepping up

Monday, March 23, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Fear of contagion is nothing new. Not that long ago, hardly back in the Dark Ages, the respected scientific opinion... Read More

Opening the Word: Sight and touch

Friday, March 20, 2020
By:  Timothy P. O'Malley As children, we learned about the five senses.  Sight is different from the sense of touch.  We see things,... Read More

With a miracle approved, beatification awaits computer programmer Carlo Acutis

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
By: Meg Hunter-Kilmer Venerable Carlo Acutis had a PlayStation. He made awkward videos with his friends. His favorite cartoon was... Read More

With a miracle approved, beatification awaits computer programmer Carlo Acutis

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
By: Meg Hunter-Kilmer Venerable Carlo Acutis had a PlayStation. He made awkward videos with his friends. His favorite cartoon was... Read More

Vatican homeless shelter continues long history of the Church’s charitable works

Monday, March 16, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Talk about a breath of fresh air. NPR spent some minutes reporting that Pope Francis had turned a one-time palace near... Read More

Opening the Word: thirsting for the Lord

Friday, March 13, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Suffering from thirst is an all-consuming experience. The thirsty person desires water alone, longing for an occasion to... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!