Some Laws take the fun out of life, other Laws invite us to live life to the fullest.
It seems that nowadays, there are just so many do’s and don’ts in the workplace, in the shopping centres, in the National Parks, roads and railways. Rules in the workplace for instance are legion! Some rules in our society are just plain stupid! I’ll give you an example. At most road intersections in the Capital cities in Australia there are two types of Cameras to catch people. One is a speed camera, which is very important to catch people running a red light and risking the lives of themselves and people. The other Camera is there to catch people who try to get through the lights before they go red. Both incur nasty fines! And points taken off our Licence. Now, a friend of mind was driving in the metropolitan area of Sydney late one night….There were no cars to be seen, he pulled up in time at the lights when they went red, and there was absolutely no traffic in any direction! The red light seemed to go on forever; you know what it is like when one waits for the lights, and especially compounded by the fact that there was no traffic……So my friend slowly drove over the intersection on the red light, and to his amazement, he could not miss the flash, flash in his rear vision mirror….he was caught! The penalty notice and infringement came in the mail some weeks later…..yes, and a very nasty financial surprise to pay out, and three points off his licence. He decided to write a letter to the Roads and Transport Authority to explain the situation….he got a swift reply…Pay up, or we will see you in court! However, if this happened in Rome, a different kind of logic would take place….no fine, no points taken off the licence…..that is if the Camera was working….ha ha.
In the first reading and Gospel of today, we see the Wisdom writer in the Old Testament speak about the choice that we have of living life to the fullest according to God’s Ways, or going our own way! The responsorial Psalm takes up the community response to the first reading by saying….HAPPY ARE THEY WHO FOLLOW THE LAW OF THE LORD! It is not happy are they who follow their own designs…..
Jesus issues in a completely new era when it comes to Law which leads to growth and quality life styles. God’s law is built on the old law and His law moves from external observations to internal matters of the heart. Jesus invites us to go beyond the letter of the law, into the spirit of the law, evenly mixed with a personal relationship with us, and us with God, in Jesus.
Within the last 50 years there has been an enormous shift in Catholic-Christian culture in understanding and acting on the laws of God. I remember when I joined Religious life back in the 1960’s we were virtually told that we were not there to think, but to do! However, Seminary Training in the late 60’s and 70’s, was beginning to shift, and instead of priding ourselves in following the rules with exactitude, we discovered the life-givingness of the spirit, enshrined within the rules and laws of God.
Some personalities in Religious life thrived on following laws, they just loved it…..everything was black and white, and one really did not need to think! Just follow the rules. For me, I was a bit of a boundary rider when it came to rules…..so I don’t think that I will revisit that pathway now! Eh eh. However, I am extremely grateful to my Passionist formation, in being teased to be curious when it came to the Scriptures, Philosophy, Theology and Church History.
Getting back to the Law of Christ: – in the Gospel today, Jesus makes it very clear that to lead others astray has grave consequences. Jesus challenges us always to go deeper into the spirit behind the laws which pertain to our relationships and relationships with God. In fact Jesus outlandishingly says that whatever we do to each other, whatever we say to each other, whatever we think about each other, we are doing to Him!
The First Reading and the Gospel today, carry a huge amount of ‘clout’ as we look at the implications of being, ‘the salt of the earth, and the light of the world’ in last week’s Gospel. Today, we see into the depths of being good Salt and bright Light, and we will see this all through St. Matthew’s Gospel this year.
We are creatures of habit: I wonder that if in your Parish Community people generally sit in the same places each Sunday, or whenever they go to the Church? Along with this are our routines during the busy working and school week, and all the demands made up on us are increasing. On the Television News today I heard that the majority of adults only get about five hours sleep a night, and most people don’t get a sound sleep because they won’t turn off their phone while in bed. Ding Ding goes the phone at 3.30am…just another advertisement from Billy the Tree! Apart from the deprivation of life giving sleep, we can tend to become irritable to live with and an absolute pain in the neck to people around us. Where is the time for personal review of life? Where is the time in nurturing ones relationship with their spouse? Where is the time for ‘Listening to God’….or is it, ‘Listen Lord, your servant is speaking…..’ I can still remember Fr Gerard Mahony CP, giving us Novices our First Profession Retreat at Mary’s Mount Passionist Novitiate in Goulburn, New South Wales……one of the important things that he said to us, which I have never forgotten was…’ a religious without prayer, is a religious without reason’. That maxim holds good for every Christian, not just those in the Religious Life. Let’s think about what Fr Gerard said……..there is a lot in it, because without the nurturing of our personal relationship with God, we are not within a bull’s roar of listening to what the Lord has to say to us each day. Without the nurturing of our personal relationships with our spouses, children, family and friends, we are no better than some robot that hands you an American Newspaper in a Hong Kong Hotel Foyer!
So, it would seem that God’s Word today can take the wind out of our sails, and we can be ‘becalmed’ in order to listen to ourselves, listen to other people, and listen to God……….As a very ancient and profound Greek Orthodox Maxim goes…….’Know thyself; know God’. Food for thought!
Fr Kevin Walsh