Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent - 2012
One of the challenging experiences that most priests confront in the course of their ministry is the person who comes to talk about one person or another who just does not live up to the expectations placed upon us by the Commandments and/or the Church. For me this experience can be summed up in the moment when a person complained about a particular family who were not consistent in fulfilling the Sunday Mass obligation. Of course the conversation continued to demean the family for one thing after another.
When I had listened enough, I asked the party to pull the plug. Enough had been said. Because I knew something of the "complainer's" background, I asked if I could ask him a personal question. Of course! When was the last time you frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation? I had heard him telling others at a party that he didn't believe in Confession any longer. Of course there was silence for a few seconds. Rather than allow him to swing in the breeze, I interrupted a hesitant response. My message was quite clear: Obsession with external observances of Church laws and the Commandments so often is the treat of individuals who really do not have a close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Likewise it is sometimes interesting to watch those who have received communion and who seem to find "counting who is receiving Holy Communion" as private time with the Lord!
External observance of laws in our Church has one purpose: to strengthen our personal relationship with God. We must not forget what Jesus has taught in so many different ways: the ultimate guide in our lives must be the law of love! A truly loving act stands on its own. When the letter of the law sucks true love from any act, the letter of the law loses its strength.
Jesus teaches us that even he would not downgrade the Law in any way. For him the Law is an instrument to help us achieve a higher level of living the gospels. Jesus endeavored to teach those in the Temple and others that true observance of any law must be show and/or seen in the heart and mind of the Christian who seeks to follow him.