This whole thing of Law is a tricky subject. A lot of Christians – maybe especially Catholics – think that God’s law is mostly “No-no’s”! “You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’ve got to be obedient….” What Pope Francis has said loud and clear is: the Church isn’t about rules, it’s about love. God’s law is, first of all, the law of our being: it’s how God made us. We’re at our best when we are acting like who we really are, when we’re motivated by love. Good “laws” are simply intelligent ways of guiding us to loving behavior.
Traffic laws are, at heart, sensible applications of the deeper law that guides us not to harm ourselves or our neighbor: to obey the fifth commandment “thou shalt not kill!” Courtroom laws against perjury are not just applications of the commandment which says “don’t lie”: they are guidelines for good human behavior, and good social relations. Shakespeare’s Polonius knew this well: “to thine own self be true and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Even good psychology tells us that gentleness and truthfulness bring us peace of mind in our relationships.
That’s what Jesus is trying to tell us in today’s Gospel passage: if we are true to the law of our being, we will be truly happy – ranking “high in the kingdom of Heaven.” Lent is a chance to reflect on being true to our best selves and to ask help in obeying God’s great Law of Love, of which all the other Commandments and all other good laws are simply practical applications.
—Fr. John J. O’Callaghan, S.J. is senior chaplain for the health sciences division at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood IL