What is your relationship with the Law? What is your relationship with Christian dogma? Do you approach them in the same way?
Law plays a prominent part in our culture. On a weekly basis, we hear of powerful laws passed to stop people and institutions behaving in negative ways. We also celebrate laws that are introduced/ amended to empower disadvantaged members of our society. It is always in the news.
On the other hand, a not uncommon attitude towards the law is to ask: how much can someone get away with? What is the “legal limit”, “is it illegal if….”. This approach to law has its roots in the thought of certain philosophers from medieval times. This approach to civil law also seeps into the Christian vision of life: “am I not good enough?”; “That sounds a bit radical…” and so on.
One ancient approach to laws was to treat them as a thing that put people on the path towards excellence. The same God who gives the laws in the Old Testament, gives us the Son Jesus Christ. And this Christ today says He has not come to abolish the law, but to complete them. He takes the traditional laws around murder, etc. and expands upon them. He offers areas for growth – for excellence – for otherwise “law-abiding citizens”.
This theme is a rather fitting one given we are now less than two weeks away from Lent. It is not a bad time to begin examining our lives and searching for places to grow or at least begin the journey towards excellence.
Rather than the usual giving up of some luxury, Pope Francis suggested the following for Lent in 2020: give up “useless words, gossip, rumours, tittle-tattle” and start “[speaking] to God on a first name basis”. He also said, “We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet,” he said. “Today, people insult each other as if they were saying ‘Good Day.’”
Pope Francis alludes to another reason we need to grow in excellence towards Christians: the little indulgences we afford ourselves sow the seeds for greater sins: think how mere anger, here and overseas, has been exploited over the past few years for political or legislative agendas. Think on how lust fuels whole industries built upon the trafficking or exploitation of people.
Think also how insults have almost come to define online conversations around sensitive issues to the extent that people grow further apart and more ignorant of the concerns at play. Suddenly little indulgences seem to give birth to beasts far bigger than themselves. I am reminded here of a passage from the book of Sirach:
11 A hasty quarrel kindles a fire,
and a hasty dispute sheds blood.
12 If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
yet both come out of your mouth.
13 Curse the gossips and the double-tongued,
for they destroy the peace of many.
Friends, as you begin discerning the areas of life requiring a growth towards excellence, may the Holy Spirit fill you with wisdom and zeal.