25 October 2014

TAKE TO HEART THE LAW

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 22:34-40 (Ex 22:20-26 / Ps 18 / 1 Thes 1:5-10)


“Never take the law into your hands,” so we say.  Ideally, law enforcements should be left with law enforcers.  I say “ideally” because sometimes law enforcers themselves turn out to be law breakers.

But today, I say to you, “Take the law into your hearts!”  Not into your hands; into your hearts, rather, take the law.  The heart is the center of a person’s being: keep the law at the center of your life.  Open your heart and see your treasure: treasure the law.  The heart symbolizes love: love the law and transform it into love.

In the Old Testament, we read, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  In the New Testament, Jesus commands us, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  In Jn 13:35, He says further, “By this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  We give witness to Jesus not with the vengeance-disguised-as-justice Old Testament code of “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” but by the justice-anticipated-merciful New Testament call to love one another as Jesus loved us.  The new commandment given by Jesus leads us to take the law into our hearts.  The old dispensation commands us to take the law into our hearts.

In the Gospel today, Jesus summarizes the 248 positive prescriptions and 365 negative prohibitions that Jewish rabbis meticulously formulated from the Ten Commandments God gave Moses.  Without refuting the Ten Commandments – but instead upholding it in fact – the foundation of all that should govern the life of God’s People is not the Ten Commandments but Christlike love.  Love brings together the 613 prescriptions and prohibitions of the Jewish law.  Because love is the foundation of the life of God’s People, it is also love that is the synopsis and basis of all laws that deserve observance by all.

Love is the source and motive of our relationship with God and with one another.  Love was the answer to the question posed to Jesus by one of the Pharisees who wanted to trap Him by His words.  Love still remains the answer to the countless questions we raise today.  Love is all that matters. Concrete love.  Christlike love.  A song says, “Too much love will kill you”; but certainly the lack of it will.  Real love does not kill; it gives life.  It is love that gives life, not the law. It is love that gives life to the law in itself.

Please allow me to quote the Holy Father’s message at the recently concluded Extraordinary Synod on Family.  Pointing to the so-called “temptations” that the Synod Fathers experienced during their sessions, Pope Francis observes:



“One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

“The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called ‘progressives and liberals.’

“The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

“The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

“The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing!”


The Holy Father, however and more importantly, implicitly and explicitly expressed, that it is charity – that is the love made visible in collegiality among the Synod Fathers and made felt to all peoples by the Church fulfilling her role as mother – that conquered these temptations and, as proven even in the earthly life of Jesus, shall always do so in ordinary and extraordinary moments of our life as individuals and as Church.

Let us take it as our mission to transform every human law into God’s law of merciful love.  As we strive to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, so shall we also be untiring and more sincere in our efforts to love one another not only as we love our selves but also, and more importantly, as Jesus loved us.  By doing so we evangelize the world.  We keep in mind the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Go and preach the Gospel. Talk if necessary.”  And we make it our principle the admonition of St. John of the Cross: “Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.”

Love of God and love of neighbor, taken together, is the greatest commandment of the Law. They are like two hands that always go together. Without one or both, a person is handicapped. Without one, a person cannot fold his hands in prayer. He can only raise a fist.

Do not take the law into your hands. But your hands will always remind you of the greatest commandment.

Take to heart the law.  Transform it into love.  Love like Jesus.  This is our life.  This is the only law for us.

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