Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Truth About Law

Get ready, because I am going to try to cram a lot of thought and a lot of heart into one post today. I thought so much in mass today and am excited to share it all. Let me begin by sharing today's first reading from mass, 
Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8
1"And now, O Israel, give heed to the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them; that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, gives you.
2You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
6Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, `Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'
7For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?
8And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?

I read this passage and thought about the laws that we make. There are many ways in which we make laws today. Parents have laws for their children, we have laws of the houses we live in, we have laws of social etiquette, laws of traditions, unspoken laws, laws of the land we live in, laws of religion. 

We have so many laws, so very many laws and rules that we cannot hope to ever follow all of them. Though we cannot ever hope to follow these many laws, these thousands of written and spoken and hidden laws; we may hope, and may try to follow love, to follow God, to follow ten simple commandments. 

I think that this is what Jesus meant in this passage, he meant that we need to give up trying to follow the millions, and follow only the ten. They are simple, they are in our hearts, and to follow these laws is to follow God alone. To follow these ten laws is to say that God's law is the only important law, that it is all that we need. 

Then we will not be responsible to a government, to someone else's bitterness and anger, it is true that we cannot and should not try to be perfect, but that all we need to do is to say yes to God and accept the commandments He has given us.  

I think that many people see religion, see God even, as a set of laws that will be impossible to follow. It is my theory that there is a limit to the number of laws and rules a person can follow without feeling totally imprisoned, and when we are running around following thousands of laws but forgetting love, forgetting kindness, forgetting to treat each other gently ... this is the greatest pain we know. That imprisonment, to be following many laws not set forth by God, and thus unable to simply love, is hell on earth.

The further readings today clarified this thought for me as well, especially St. James' passage, 

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world." [James 1:27]

When I think of being "unstained by the world" I think of how much we cut ourselves down, how we hold back from singing because we were once made fun of, how we hold ourselves back, how we try so hard to fit in and in doing so lose the passion, the joy and the love that we had as children.  The world tells us "cut off that piece of yourself, it is not good enough. It is not normal. You should be embarassed or ashamed," and we listen. To not be stained by the world is to say "No, God made me" and be our true selves, our strange, passionate, loving little humble selves.  

The last reading too, spoke of the Pharisees who saw that Jesus' disciples did not go through the ritual hand washing before they ate. They accused them, and though the Pharisees were not pure themselves, were not following God's commandments, they attacked the disciples for not following the old Jewish laws of tradition. 

This particularly struck me because I get hung up on too many little laws, especially being of Jewish descent. I wonder, "Would it be better if I was Kosher?" or "Oh no, I forgot to pray before lunch" or "Oh no, I forgot the cross necklace that I meant to wear today" ... these thoughts, these little fears, deflect from what is important. 

To be superstitious in this manner like we too often do, takes us away from God and takes us away from living the verb love. I think that this is the most dangerous thing we can possibly do, personally and interpersonally. In our hearts and in our nations. We must love. We must trust God above all else. We must return to a state of kindness, gentleness, and closeness with Our Father, and I believe that the way to do this is to follow only the commandments that he has given us.