Saturday, December 26, 2009


Our Lord was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath when he saw a woman who had been suffering from a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years. As a result, she was all bent over and could not even walk. Feeling compassion for this unfortunate suffering woman, Jesus healed her by a simple word and the touch of His all-pure hands. I would imagine the woman cried tears of joy over her miraculous delivery, but the ruler of the synagogue was incensed. How dare He heal the woman on the Sabbath, when there are six other days of the week whereon he might do this "work?" (Strictly speaking, no work whatsoever was permitted on the Sabbath, and healing was technically considered work).

Our Lord's famous reply, however, put the ruler to shame: "The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath." And if this is so regarding the Old Testament Law, h0w much more so concerning the law of love Christ came to proclaim? The rules and canons of the Church are, in fact, not meant to enslave us, but to liberate us. We have not been given a list of senseless and arbitrary rules and regulations, but rather a path to salvation and the means to follow it.

Christ's healing of the woman was an act of love, and the law of love surely supercedes any strict interpretation of the Law. In fact, the entirety of the Jewish Law has already been fulfilled in Christ, Who has revealed to us a new law of grace. Yet there remain many Christians to this day who believe if we are simply "good" enough and obey all the rules, God will reward us by allowing us to go to heaven when we die. But this is legalism pure and simple, and has nothing to do with the Christian revelation.

Surely the rules and guidelines we follow as Christians can never be viewed as ends in themselves. Their sole purpose is to provide for us the means of uniting our souls with God, and this union already is heaven for those who achieve it. But the biggest obstacle to this union is pride, which is why our Lord so roundly condemned the Pharisees: these people thought they were better than anyone else simply because they followed the letter of the Law. Having been thus blinded by the spirit of pride, they failed to see the forest for the trees: by focussing on the literal fulfillment of the Law, they lost sight of the supreme law of love.

This is why we must all, as St. Paul says, put on the "whole armor of God," because the Devil prowls about like a roaring lion ever seeking whom he may devour. And his greatest weapon is to instill in our hearts a spirit of pride. His goal is not so much to turn us all into atheists, but rather to make us think we are righteous and holy when in fact all of our righteousness is as filthy rags. "A humble and contrite heart Thou wilt not despise," says the Psalmist, and this indeed is the greatest armor of all against the wiles of the enemy and the surest path to salvation.

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