The most tragic misunderstanding of Christian faith is that it’s all about rules and regulations. This reduction of faith soon becomes moralism and legalism.
These “isms” usually indicate personal woundedness which, when acknowledged, is an opportunity for encounter with Jesus who leads us to a life of healthy and abundant faith both now and eternally.
As recent popes have repeatedly emphasised, “Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, of rules to be followed, or of prohibitions. Seen that way it puts us off. Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who asks for my love. Christianity is Christ.” (Pope Francis at Panama World Youth Day 2019 quoting Oscar Romero)
This does not mean that the law is not important, but rather that adherence to good law is not itself the goal. “The proclamation of the saving love of God, comes before moral and religious imperatives.” Pope Francis in 2013
Pope Benedict began his first encyclical letter (on Christian love, in 2005) with the reminder that: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”. Deus Caritas Est 1.
Commenting on Benedict’s attitude to moralism Australian theologian Tracey Rowland recalls a question young Fr. Ratzinger asked in 1964 in which he sought to get beyond superficial moralism to the heart of Christian faith: “What actually is the real substance of Christianity that goes beyond mere moralism?” Ratzinger asked. Rowland adds that Ratzinger’s “rejection of moralism of every kind remained a constant in his writings.”
As Thomas Aquinas (13th century) wrote promoting a move beyond moralism and legalism: “The new law is the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Good law is a beacon that points us to to a destination and enables us to journey safely through life and to the One who is Lord of the Sabbath and Lord of all law.
- Consider that the law that you know to be the law of Jesus Christ (and the church community to which you belong) is a gift. Make a decision to live the letter and the spirit of every one of these laws 100% for the next week. Then every morning and evening ask yourself if you feel more or less happy, more or less fulfilled, more or less in relationship with Jesus Christ. You might be surprised at what you notice in your life.
- Many people have commented about how moved they were by the five-minute video clip in yesterday’s post. Click here if you missed it.
- If you haven’t tried the Prayer Request page you might like to take a look – and leave a prayer request inviting others to pray at this link. You can let others know when you pray for their intention and they will receive an email letting them know that their intention is being prayed by others. When we pray we are never alone.