Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Law and Love Overlap

Father John J. Lombardi

Q.: What did Jesus get upset about the most? A.: Jesus railed against the Pharisees and scribes often because of their legalism. They lacked compassion and made a god out of the Law, customs and human inventions. Do you?

Catholics have a delight in our varied colorful Bible-centered Religion, but there are dangers, too . Some modern folks may think: Catholics are the modern inheritors of the scribes and Pharisees. After all they call priests "Father" when Jesus says seemingly not to; Catholics venerate statues when scripture says not to make graven images (Dt. 27:15) ; they multiply prayers (Mt. 6:6); they dress up and seek seats and places of honor in public (Mt. 6:7). Are these dangers to your Faith? They need not be. Like St Paul who said he became "a father" in the faith to his children (I Cor. 4:15ff), and also biological dads whom we call father, we do not mistake the One and only Eternal Father for any priest or dad. We use statues to think of Heaven and the creator of the saintly creature (cf. Ex. 25:20-23) . We hopefully pray with our hearts and repeat prayers, just like repeating "I love you" to family members (see I Thes 5:17). We hopefully seek humility and eschew elitism in our sacramental Faith. However we Catholics need to constantly ask the Holy Spirit to help us practice wisely our Religion/Faith so these delights do not become dangers If we use properly and don’t abuse what our Church has bestowed to us we will be fine

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)Jesus calls us to both Law and Love. In our Faith Love and Law blend; however they can turn into socialism and Phariseeism if we’re not careful.

Here are two common ModernMistakes: 1-Legalism=The Law becomes the relationship rather than helping the personal relationship with God. Spiritual intimacy is lost­ so remember our religion is about a Person­Jesus Christ­and do not neglect a proper relationship (heartfelt prayer; helping others) and avoid falling into mechanistic habits and "going thru the motions" of performance based spirituality.

2-Socialism: is love devoid of the Law. This is today’s predominant mistake­to throw out the Ten Commandments; or the attitude, "God wouldn’t judge me on this" or "The Lord isn’t a police officer" or "Jesus wouldn’t get stuck up on that" etc. People here suffer a loss of Grace­a need God’s Life and Help­and become causal with codes of conduct and minimalist with ethics and rituals while emphasizing helping others.

The Lord Jesus calls us to a living relationship with Him and also a continuation of a Tradition (the word means, literally, "to hand on"). Religion means to bind together not to divorce or split apart or make another religion out of law or socialism or whatever. And Jesus says as much as we wash our outer vessels we need to purify our inner selves (hearts and souls) first before we seek prophesying in the public square. Perhaps we need to confess sins of rash judgment, inner harshness and cynicism and loss of love and bitterness. Here are some other observations:

Don’t sweat the small stuff : As humans we get stuck on minor things­the "fly in the ointment syndrome"--how a person dresses or speaks; their style of car or hairdo; a perception we have about them; what someone else says about the person . At the end of the day, and of life, do we really wanna be judged on such gossip and small things? Do we want our lives to be "so small" and "chattery" and provincial, all the while forgetting a key principle of life, the next point

Remember " The Big Picture": When I was on pilgrimage recently there were annoyances­challenging people and behaviors and other trials­although no one was robbing banks and generally things were "kosher". After a while I addressed what issues I could and then decided: The Pilgrimage is bigger than this; I will not let any "minor" annoyance block my joy and postpone the Present Moment. I recalled a past pilgrim say: Look at the overall picture­the Big Picture­it’s generally good, and be thankful for that. That helped a lot.

Do you delver delight or R U a giver of gloom ? When we get stuck on our spiritual navels/bellybuttons, excessive small or secondary details or others’ problems-real or imagined--we can become grumpy toward others. Don’t. Rather, think of God’s gifts, blessings in your life and The Big Picture.

Synthesis- As Catholics we should always remember: it’s not either/or but both/and: Not either Law or love but both law and love together. Sometimes people will want to­consciously or not-- cancel out

Law (perhaps thinking: "God doesn’t get stuck on this small stuff") and so they legitimize adultery or pornography or gossip. Others reject practicing love because of their fears, or investment in a mechanistic spirituality or inability to give affection and charity.

Now, think of the orthodoxy of the saints­ holy souls like Catherine of Siena and Padre Pio and Pope John Paul II who combined creed and charity so well. They both loved the poor and the Lord in His teachings and Church and Eucharist. Do you?

Other Meditations…

Fools for Christ: Walking into the Dollar General recently I held the door open for some folks and then a pile more piled out of the store and held the door somewhat disguisedly, blocked by another person. One of the ladies exiting who didn’t see me said to a lady in-between us: "Thank you honey" whom she thought was holding the door Then the exiting lady saw me­in my Roman Collar, smiling, holding the door­and immediately was embarrassed, and then said with red face: "I guess you been called worse." We all laughed-- I then went in and saw some parishioners who saw me in the check outline holding some salt and vinegar chips. My favorite. I thought I splurge…

"Come away by yourselves" (Mk. 6:31) You don’t have to go far away to relax, have fun and peace. I‘ve been rolling down Church Street to the Nation’s River which I hope you know is the Potomac. There’s a path right off the Rail Trail I like to go down and go fishing and also swim from. So far I’ve not turned green. Anyway, it’s been great.

There’s a rock I can walk out on further into the River, then submerge enough to swim in, and the River’s current is fast/slow enough to do some easy strokes for a few minutes (no better exercise than swimming they say: I sure sleep well at night!). Or from there I just stand or wade and take in the virginal view­to the West the bridge to Berkeley Springs; and on the river’s banks green trees and flowers, and to the east, when its not too humid­Fairview Mountain near Clear Spring. Bucolic. Serene. And just a couple minutes away from my house. I like when St Paul says: "I’ve learned to be content In whatever situation I’ve found myself" (Phil ). One phrase I utter sometimes to recall this Divine Grace, is: Nothing lacking/ nothing distracting/ all things divinely interacting. Embrace The Present Moment as God is giving it to you here-and-now. You don’t have to go to a spa or fancy clinic to train your body and work out. All around us is God’s Glory and He heals us by His Nature and recreational opportunities. Are you seeking and taking God’s greening grace--sometimes right under your nose?... A new "favorite thing: Fly fishing w/ Dean last Wednesday at his pond. I caught a couple blue gills on a regular pole and then went to the fly rod and it sure was fun!

Catholic Social Teaching: An interesting recent New York Times story (Aug. 29) profiled the US Bishops approach to president Obama’s and Congress’ heath care initiatives, with more Bishops vocal resistance, and with some support for universal public-option health care. Archbishop Charles Chaput (of Denver) has said that any health care proposal that implicitly or explicitly funds abortion or euthanasia or attacks upon special needs persons cannot bill itself as ‘common ground’ . Bishop R Walker Nickless has said that while health care for many/all is desirable it is not, according to Catholic teaching, a "right"­and it is up to various parties to discern how to make health care available to those who need it most. There is still question about abortion being funded by any public legislation, with administration officials saying no, impossible, and Abp. Chaput saying abortion would be subtly feasible thru technicalities... Let us pray for just solutions and the dignity of all to be respected, including the unborn and elderly.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi