Lent 03, Year B

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Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith (Rom. 10: 4)

According to St. Vincent de Paul, before they were written and compiled into a booklet, the rules of the C.M. had already been practiced for years by the missionaries. I think too that the ten commandments had already been practiced without them having been proclaimed on Sinai, written on stone tablets and made part of a legal code.

In the case of the rules of the C.M., St. Vincent explained that their not having been written down and given out beforehand was proof that they really were the work of God and not of human reason. But perhaps the divine in the commandments, governing either worship or ethics, had been understandable and perceivable by human beings in what God had made (cf. Rom. 1:20). Perhaps also, non-Israelites, who had not even heard of the ten commandments, had already been observing at least some of the dictates of the commandments and thus had been showing that they had had written in their hearts some demands of the commandments (cf. Rom. 2:14-15).

We keep on understanding better, of course, the demands of the commandments as we become more familiar with them, observe them, and apply them with discernment to a reality that is becoming ever more complicated because human communities keep growing and get more sophisticated. The complexities of life, which in itself already constitutes a deep mystery and therefore does not lend itself easily to descriptions that human reason is able to come up with, lead to many and different specifications, clarifications and interpretations. It is, in part, on account of this, I think, that there are 613 precepts in the Torah and we find 1,752 canons in the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church. And they are not few, either, the ethicists and moral theologians who could specify for us how to conduct ourselves in accord with the commandments, given certain circumstances and conditions.

In the face of such a myriad of commandments, precepts, laws or canons and of cases from casuistry, one can easily miss what is important in this totality. But the true Christian, without neglecting any demand of the commandments, acknowledges that Christ is the perfect fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The true Christians knows that "being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea," to use the words in the second paragraph of Deus Caritas Est, "but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." Embracing Christ, the true Christian believes, with a firm and immense faith, that He is the power and wisdom of God to those who are called, even if other believers and many wise folks consider Him a stumbling block and a fool.

And really, what other scandal could be greater than that of one called the Son of God dying nailed to the cross, feeling abandoned by the very Father to whom he, in the end, commits his spirit? For many believers, it would indeed be night when it would seem God has died, because He is there hanging on the gallows (cf. Elie Wiesel, Night).

And what could be crazier than to dare defy the authorities vested with the power over life and death, whose positions can never be put at risk by anyone? To challenge corporations whose slogan is simply "Business is business," and whose raison d’etre is to make profit, which are not going to be hindered by limits imposed by the sacred, nor by legitimate boundaries dividing countries, nor by security considerations, nor by the demands of justice and charity?

And don’t many thinkers teach--not a few of them are religious and Christian--that there is no wisdom in one loving one’s enemies, in one doing good to those who hate him, blessing those who curse him, praying for those who mistreat him, nor is there any logic in a person, already struck on one cheek, turning the other one as well, or in one not withholding one’s tunic from another who has already taken one’s cloak? I do not think either that there would be many who would hold that better than winning over and befriending the rich and the powerful is identifying with the least of the brothers and sisters and associating with the lowly (Rom. 12:16).

And would not both the believers who are scandalized and the wise folks who suffer fools lightly not affirm that anyone causing such a scandal or proving himself a fool truly deserves, as a logical consequence of his scandalous and foolish behavior, death on the gallows? But for the genuinely Christian, by the cross, at once scandalous and foolish, Christ reached the summit of his fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, being consumed by zeal, honoring God to the utmost and showing profound respect for those created by God in his image and likeness. In the manner of Christ likewise, the true Christian will show his adhesion to the commandments, proclaiming them at all times, even without the help of public displays of them in government-owned buildings or properties, but surely using words whenever and wherever necessary.