Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Love and the Law

Maybe I have been reading too much of the mystics lately, but it’s hard for me to understand such a focus on the law as is in today’s readings. Not to devalue the law, but I get the sense sometimes that we place so much emphasis on doing things “right” that we forget why we do them in the first place. And the reason we do them: Jesus' law of love… which (it seems to me) is not so much a law that is followed like other laws, but a way of living and being in relationship with other people.

I was thinking about this issue last night with regards to the liturgy. I have been to parishes that place such great emphasis on doing the liturgy right that they neglect other aspects of human life. They might have the proper incense and half a dozen servers, but the homily will be unprepared or out of touch with their congregation. I have heard many a homily on the necessity of going to confession… not that it's wrong to discuss confession, but how about a little guidance on how to live life in such a way that there is less to confess? (And how about calling that sacrament “reconciliation” like the contemporary documents do? Even that word change alters the significance of the sacrament, into a sacrament of mended relationships rather than a sacrament simply of guilt and penance.)

The world of theology is not so different either. Theologians have to question the way things are—that is part of their job. If no one questions things, then nothing can change. (This isn't the right place for a digression, but the dynamism of creating is an integral part of God's being... so change among the created world is good, and change in the church is guided by the Holy Spirit--even better!) Yet there are some people in this world who are so opposed to change that they become militant at any intimation that theology can be expressed somehow other than the Catechism or Thomas Aquinas expressed it. Again, not to devalue the Catechism or Thomas, but the brilliance of being Christian is in knowing that God is greater than any one person’s conception of God…or even any one catechism’s conception of God. The history of theology shows us that—each theologian throughout history has taken a different approach to understanding the divine, and most of those approaches are not heretical! So what is God like if each of these expressions is different? God is all of them combined, and yet more than we can possibly imagine. That’s the great mystery, and also a great reason to be open to the ideas of those around us. Our neighbors and those we disagree with might see something of God that we cannot see.

No comments: