The Law of Love

A cartoon in a national magazine shows Moses with two tablets under his arm coming down a mountain. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” he says. “The good news is I got Him down to ten. The bad news is adultery is still in there.” Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard once said: “Most people believe that the Christian Commandments are intentionally a little too severe, like setting a clock half an hour ahead to make sure of not being late in the morning.” Cable TV wizard, Ted Turner said that the Ten Commandments are out of date. I wonder which ones he would scrap. “Thou shalt not kill?” Absurd. Or “Thou shalt not steal?” Try stealing CNN’s signal without paying for it. Probably he had in mind, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Turner has been wrong before. The Ten Commandments will never be obsolete. Adultery is just as serious now as it was then. And neither God in the Old Testament nor Jesus in the New “intentionally [made His Commandments] a little too severe.” Jesus knew that happiness comes from living according to God’s laws. Breaking those laws, or sinning, brings unhappiness and even death. The life of integrity, or righteousness, is the life God intends for us to live. So according to the Sermon on the Mount, integrity is a big deal. (From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection)

In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17-18) But reflecting on how our Lord Jesus Christ ministered his people in his time or pastored his flock, which he was constantly attacked by the Sadducees and Pharisees, the key to understanding his message on the law and the prophets is this verse: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

Without a doubt, laws are important; in fact, keeping the law will save us (Sirach 15:15) and the commandments are “the way that leads to life.” (Mk 10:17.19.) However, in the context of the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus is leading us into a much deeper reality rather than the legal formulations of the commandments. It is the spirit of the law rather than the strict legalism and external observance that the Pharisees were parading before the eyes of men. It is the Divine Wisdom and God’s mysterious plan of salvation that St. Paul talks about in the Second Reading. It’s the mystery of the cross, which is the law of love that our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated to the apostles and believers. Most often, this Divine Wisdom is kept hidden from the wise of this world.

Once the son of King Louis XVI was taken prisoner by a rival nation and sent to the torture room. The French Dauphin was held prisoner by one of the most difficult jailors. The jailor was waiting to lay his hands upon this poor helpless child, for having been born into the royal family. Everyday, the jailor would increase his torture a little more, and each time the child would quietly bear it all, praying to God. One day the jailor asked him, “What would you do, Carpeto, if the Vendeanos set you free? What would you do with me? Would you have me hanged?” The little boy smiled and said: “I would forgive you.” Forgiveness is one of the noblest virtues of man. As St. Francis of Sales once said, “If, someone in hatred were to pluck out my left eye, I think I could look kindly at him with my right eye. If he plucked that one out too, I would still have the heart with which to love him.” (G. Francis Xavier in ‘101 Inspiring Stories’)

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