Wednesday, March 11, 2015


One of the traditional attacks on the Catholic Church is "all those rules." Some want to act as if because God is love, God doesn't want to impose a bunch of rules. Now any God parent should know better, but let's she what the Bible says.

In today's gospel we hear

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.

You the say, but what about all those rules of the Church that aren't in the Bible? Then I would point you to the first reading from Deuteronomy 4:1

Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live,

Here the Bible itself makes clear that there are two categories of law:
Chukkim(ordinances)- precepts, thou shall or thou shall not, those rules spelled out in the Bible.

Mishpatim(decrees)- Judicial decisions which guides us to a fuller understanding of the law.

For us as Catholics for example
-the "ordinance" would be "keep the sabbath holy" found clearly in scripture;
-the "decree" would be "Sunday is the Christian sabbath and the minimum for keeping it holy is attending mass."

Notice Deuteronomy does not say read the ordinances in the Bible and each person should make up their own decrees with whatever suits their taste.

Whether we are talking about the people of Israel or the Church established by Jesus, all societies are governed by laws and make demands of their members. Every society has not only the written law, but some judiciary to guide the proper interpretation and application of the law.

The traditional Jewish commentary takes us a step further and holds that the reason behind many of the statutes is "hidden from us." Why? To see if we can trust God, and obey.

When did obedience stop being a virtue in our culture? It comes from the word audire -to listen. We are very focused on our right to free speech but are we equally focused on our obligation to listen.

Jesus reminds us that until the coming of the fullness of the kingdom at the end of time there will always be law. In this Lenten season can we recover the humility to listen and obey.