DIGNITY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF BEING HUMAN
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
History testifies that the revelation of God’s will was given gradually and progressively according to the need and capacity of man. It began with the Covenant at Sinai. The law was the revelation of God’s will. Law was Israel’s part of the Covenant. The law established how the people must live as God’s people in order to have from Him the salvation, which he has freely decided to give Israel in the future. (Exodus 34: 10-11; Deuteronomy 30: 15-19)
For the Jews the law was the guidance they needed to come closer to God, to find their way through the complexities of life, and to assure them of God’s protection and their own prosperity. Many today think that the law is responsible for the remarkable survival of the Jews. For the Jews, Torah did not mean law in the strict sense, as we understand it today. For them, it meant “teaching” or “way.” For them, the law was linked indissolubly with joy, wisdom, understanding, and discernment for those who observe its precepts. The most famous Psalm in praise of the law (Psalm 119) is more than three times longer than any other Psalm.
THE NEW COVENANT
The divine revelation which began at Sinai culminated in the definitive revelation of Jesus Christ. (Heb. 1: 1-3) Jesus said that he came not to destroy the law but to bring it to fulfillment. The Decalogue is still valid and will always be valid because it is part of the natural law, the conditions necessary for human beings to live together in society in peace and in justice.
Jesus said that love is the fulfillment of the law. “When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, (a scholar in the law) tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’” (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22: 34-40)
Then at the Last Supper, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 14-15)
Jesus went even further, he made Himself to be the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And his Father confirmed that he was. On Mount Tabor when Jesus was transfigured between Moses who represents the law, and Elijah who represents the prophets, the Father said, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” God’s revelation was moving from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, from law to love.
Jesus is the personification of love and the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is the greatest expression of the love of God for us, and at the same time the greatest expression of our human response to that love. In Jesus, the “medium is the message.” The entire content of Christianity has been abstracted from the person and the life of Jesus. To be a Christian is to incarnate these abstractions into our own personal life so that we become an “alter Christus,” another Christ.
THE MYSTICAL BODY OF JESUS
God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Our Lord’s life span on earth, however, was only about 33 years. While he was personally proclaiming the Good News to his contemporaries, He was preparing a means by which his mission would be continued, after he had returned to his Father, to the end of time.
He began by gathering together twelve disciples. For three years he taught them by word and by example. As a sort of internship he sent them out two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits. He gave them their formal commission before he ascended into heaven. “Go into the whole world, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 19-20)
Jesus told them to go to Jerusalem and wait until they received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who would descend upon them, remind them of all he had commanded them, and remain with them forever. The descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost was the birthday, the beginning, of the Mystical Body of Jesus, the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, the Church, the “pillar and bulwark of the truth,” has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth. (2032) The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are “authentic teachers,” that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice. The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for. (2034)
Theologians are not part of the Magisterium. We do not get our faith or morals from them. They only try to make the teaching of the Magisterium more relevant and intelligible. Theology has been defined as “faith seeking understanding.” The Magisterium is the “launching pad and mission control” of theology. Theology depends on the Magisterium for its faith, and the Magisterium depends on the theologians for prepared statements of its teaching and a more relevant and deeper understanding of it.
Not all laws have the same value. The laws of God are divine laws. The laws of the Church are human laws, unless they reiterate a divine law. But Church laws are not just ordinary human laws. The Holy Spirit guides the Church in making laws and the Church can call upon 2,000 years of experience in dealing with human nature and human problems. It is the burden of the Magisterium to teach the objective law, to keep the laws relevant, and credible, by dropping some and making new ones, otherwise the law falls into disrepute.
We should have a deep respect and esteem for the law. In the Old Testament the law was identified with the wisdom of God, in the New Testament, the law is identified with the love of God. Observing the law enables us to participate in the wisdom and the love of God. But we must not fall into the trap of legalism, which is the deification of the law. The essence of Christianity is not law but love. The law is not the end, it is the means to the end. The end is God. We need a balance between legalism and license, between the deification of law and the contempt for law. All of this is called the material law, the objective law. To break one of these laws is to commit a material, objective sin.
GOOD MORAL IS GOOD MEDICINE
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