By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“IT is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” (Jn 5,10) So said some Jews to a a sick man cured by Christ. This kind of accusation was common in the times of Christ and a reflection of the general mindset of the Jews then whose understanding of the law was still to be purified and perfected.
We need to understand that our laws, both in the civil and especially in the ecclesiastical sphere, should be animated by the spirit of God who knows all things and keeps everything in its proper order. We should not just make our laws, interpret and apply them to specific cases by basing them only on our own estimation of things, inspired only by some cultural, historical, political, social, economic or some ideological ethos.
We need to realize that it is Christ who ultimately gives the real meaning and purpose of our laws. It should be God, his laws and ways that should animate the way we make laws as well as the way we apply and live them. After all, being the Creator of all things, he is the one who establishes what is truly good and evil.
And the will, laws and ways of God are revealed to us in full by Christ. That is why at one point Christ said to the Pharisees and scribes regarding the proper interpretation of the Sabbath law that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man (Christ) is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk 2,27-28)
So it is Christ who can guide us as to the content and intent of our laws. He is the one who can interpret our laws properly. He is the one that would give our laws their proper spirit, which in the end is the spirit of charity that summarizes and perfects all virtues and values.
Without Christ, our laws would unavoidably become rigid and harsh in certain instances. They would tend to absolutize certain things that actually should only have relative value. They would hardly recognize their limits, and so would find it hard to accept exceptions.
Without Christ, our laws would only lead us to the path of self-righteousness that will always be accompanied by the ways of hypocrisy. They can tend to rationalize things that actually are against God’s laws and our own objective good.
We have to understand that our human laws are meant to lead us to our ultimate goal which is none other than to be with God, to be holy as God is holy, etc. Irrespective of their immediate temporal purpose, our laws should lead us little by little to become God’s image and likeness as we are meant to be. They in the end should serve the fundamental religious purpose of our life. That should always be the constant purpose of our laws.
All the other objectives of our laws, let alone their technical requirements, serve only as an occasion, a reason or motive for this ultimate purpose. Setting aside this ultimate purpose would empty our laws of their real legitimacy, making them rife for all kinds of manipulations and maneuverings by some shrewd men who may enjoy some power at a given moment.
We need to remind ourselves that God’s law is in fact the foundation, the inspiration and the perfection of our human laws.