Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rules, Ritual, and all that stuff

These I hear a lot of people who will describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. When you ask what's wrong with religion The answer I get is some version of "I just don't buy all those rules and ritual, and all that stuff." Even some who will describe themselves as Christian will try and claim that "all that stuff" isn't what Jesus was about.

Once again they make the fatal mistake of forgetting that Christianity isn't a faith of either/or but rather a both/and.

My theology of law professor in Rome once asked the question "Will there be law in heaven?" His answer was "No." In heaven there will be no need for law because everyone will live constantly by the virtue of justice, the constant and perpetual will to give to each person that which is their right--in short they will love,

But we are not there yet. In the mean time we need rules and rituals. Which of us has not developed a ritual to help us cope with at least the first half hour of every morning? How many of the same people who balk at organized religion have a workout routine for the gym or a yoga class they attend where they are told that not only does each asana have an precise shape but even the sequence of the asanas is important.

Jesus does not condemn the laws of the Pharisees per se. On the contrary, he says clearly that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. What Jesus condemns are those examples where the rules and rituals remain on the surface, those examples where they do not fulfill their purpose, interior conversion of heart, right relationship with God and others.

It has been 10 years now since I finished my canon law degree at the Gregorian University in Rome. And I am still thankful that our Dean's focus was not simply on our memorizing the law, but understanding the purpose behind each law and its connection to God's law of love.