Law of Love – Total Commitment
(Is Christianity Easy?)
Peace be to you.
Law and Love
All that we have said up to this point can be summarized in the difference between law and love. Really, in the Christian way, we are not governed by law at all. We should be beyond it.
- We seek not just merely the keeping of the commandments, we seek to be related to our Blessed Lord.
Is it hard? Is it possible?
Remember one day a young man came to our Blessed Lord and he asked what he must do to be saved, and our Blessed Lord said that he must keep the commandments. And our Lord mentioned about five or six of the commandments such as not stealing, not committing adultery, and the like, and the young man said, “I have kept all these from my youth”. Then our Blessed Lord then added; “if you would be prefect go sell all you have, give to the poor, then come follow me.” (Matthew 10:21) The young man left our Lord and went away sad because he had great possessions. The apostles were troubled about this. After all, must everybody sell everything that he has to follow our Lord? So they said, “Who, then can be saved?” And our Lord answered, that it is not possible with men alone, that is to say, by our own human power we cannot, but it is possible with God. (Mark 10:20-27)
All things are possible with God. We have His Grace.
Is Christianity hard, therefore?
In a certain sense it is hard, hard from a worldly point of view. But it gives such inner peace and joy, that those who obey the law of love of our Lord find it very easy. Really, when we understand the full import of the law of our Blessed Lord, we find it to be this:
- Our Lord is saying, “Give me all – all of you. I do not want just so much of your time, so many hours a day, so much of your money, so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment this natural self of yours. I’ve come to kill it. No half measures are any good. I do not want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have this whole tree of the natural man cut down. I do not wish just to drill a tooth or crown it.
“Give me your whole self.”
- If it’s bad, I want it out.” So He says, “Give me your whole self.” Is that a loss? No, because He said, “I will give you a new Self. I will give you Myself. My own Will shall become yours.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- The trouble with us when we hear the law of our Blessed Lord is that we are trying to remain what we are and at the same time to keep a reasonable amount of peace. We want to be what we call “good”. We want our heart and mind to go one way – maybe it’s after money, maybe it’s after pleasure, maybe it’s after social prestige, and at the same time we do want to behave honestly and chastely and to keep the commandments.
Now that is exactly what our Blessed Lord said that we were not to do. He said a thistle cannot produce a fig. (James 3:12) And if I am a field that contains nothing but grass seed, I cannot produce wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change has to go deep, down below the surface. I have to be plowed up and be resown. And that is why our Lord said, “If you would be perfect, come follow me.” (Matthew 19:21 )
Oh, and again, “Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
He meant we have to go in for full treatment. It is hard, for the sort of hankering after it
is a bit harder.
Really, when we get down to rock bottom, what are we afraid of?
We are afraid to give our finger to God because we fear that He may take our hand. So we have little secret gardens back in our heart that we tend; the fruit is not His, it’s ours. We wall it off from Him, sometimes petty sin or vice, whatever it happens to be. We do not get the full Joy of being a Christian.
It’s very hard for an egg, for example, to turn into a bird. But it would be much harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are just like eggs now and we cannot go on being just what we call a “good egg”. If we insist upon being a good egg, we either become a good egg, a really good one, or a bad one. And what is a good egg? A good egg is an egg that hatches.
- It can be readily seen that what our Blessed Lord insists upon is a kind of a death, namely that we have to renew in our own lives exactly what happened in His.
Jesus is the pattern:
He is the pattern. He repeatedly said, not only to Nicodemus but to us, that if we are to live again we are to perish to that old existence.
- If there is anybody who hopes that in Christ the real danger spots are rendered harmless and that nothing else can happen to us because, after all, He is what we call a kind savior and who takes even hardened sinners back with no questions asked. Well that person must first come to terms with the text that our Blessed Lord said He would not subtract one jot or tittle from the severity of God’s law, that He had come not to abolish the law but to perfect it.
Grace is not cheap. It cost our Lord His life!
- In other words, Grace is not cheap. It cost our Lord His life! Can you think of anything that is more costly than that for which a man must pay on the Cross?
So if we want peace, we have to pay that price. Without that death to the lower life – not the death to our higher life – no! – but without that death to our lower life there is not peace, there is only fear and we live just a kind of a half existence.
- Remember our Blessed Lord said that He who wills to do the will of the Father in Heaven will know whether the teaching is from God. By this He means, one of the reasons there are agnostics and skeptics is because they are not keeping the Law of God. If we know His Will, we will understand His Doctrine.
It could very well be that we have entirely too much insistence on a knowledge of Christian doctrine and not enough insistence on the doing. Our Blessed Lord never said that if you know My doctrine, you will do My will. But He did say that if you do My will, you will know My doctrine.
- In other words, only he who does the will, who is in earnest about it, who stakes his life on it, will come to understand Christ and all that His Redemption means.
Our Lord is known really only to those who venture, not to the cowards is He known. Now, at first, our Blessed Lord is always a Disturber, and when you are still living in the natural order, He seems to irritate you. You are dealing with a God who seems to be leading you into a kind of a crucifixion. You are a nice, easy-going worldling and you have settled down comfortably into what you call your worldview.
- But if you are in earnest with Christ, you will have to give up that comfort and not because you are supposed to be a nervous worrier, but simply because it is a false peace.
The first advent, therefore, of Christ into our lives is actually that of One who upsets us.
But then once we give ourselves to Him, He becomes our defender. Before we have Christ, our heart accuses us; we are unhappy with half measures. Then after we give ourselves to our Lord and His Law of Love, then our heart is at peace and Christ becomes our defender. His attitude completely changes once we have changed ours.
This is just another way of putting the difference between commandments and love.
*Commandments only restrain me. We see them as hurdles and obstacles in the way of life and those who live by the commandments ask, how far can I go? What is the limit? How close can I get to the abyss without tumbling in? Is it a mortal sin?
Christian doctrine of Morality
- This is not the way of love and not the way of peace. It is the old Adam that is within me that talks this way about commands, so that when I merely obey commands I am never there as a whole person but, perhaps at most, only with the better half of myself and the other half remains in opposition. That’s the psychological state of everyone who obeys the commands. Never the whole heart.
*But when I love, I am a whole person, for love is a movement of my whole self. It is an overflowing, limitless giving of one’s self; therefore, it can never be commanded. It can only happen.
Up to this point we have said that the Christian doctrine of Morality is a total commitment to Christ so that we put on His Mind, we think His Thoughts, we love what He Loves, and we ask ourselves whenever we do anything, will this be pleasing to Him?
But there is another side to the love of God. There is the love of neighbor.
The two Laws go together, and the love of neighbor is not merely giving eggs to a neighbor when the neighbor wishes it.
It is really being a sin-bearer. What does that mean? Well, some years ago I remember meeting a woman who was very much distressed because her son had been put into prison. I think it was the fourth arrest for crime, robbery and murder. She was bitterly ashamed and broken-hearted and then I asked myself, why does she have all this shame? And there came to me the words of the prophet Isaiah said that refer to our Lord. And I might say of her: she had borne his griefs, carried his sorrows, and the chastisement of his peace was upon her, and it would only be by her stripes that he would be healed.
This good mother had very few sins in her life, certainly no serious sins, and yet love made her exceedingly sinful for his sake. So immediately the mystery cleared up. The love which a woman can put out for her son and which makes her so entirely one with him that his sin is her sin, his disgrace is her disgrace, his shame is her shame, is the nearest thing that we can ever get on this earth to the love of God and to know what God really is.
In our own turn, therefore, we have to see that all of our sins became His sins; our disgrace was His disgrace; our shame His shame; and in His own Body he bore our sins upon the tree. This is what forgiveness costs. That is why we said that Grace is not easy.
We are not, therefore, to think that we are pious when we begin living our individual holy lives apart from our neighbor and apart from the world and suffering humanity. That was the trouble with Simon the Pharisee. The sinful woman came into the house and poured out ointment upon the feet of our Blessed Lord. Simon was scandalized, even wanted no contact with anyone that was sinful. He was only concerned about keeping
the law just for himself, maybe his own false inner peace. And our Blessed Lord said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? Do you understand her? Her sins are part of the sins of the world”, and then He went on to say that He was taking on her sins and the pouring of the ointment was a preparation for His Crucifixion and His burial. She was forgiven much, and forgiveness costs an awful lot. (Luke 7:45-48)
Forgiveness is Love in action, and Love means Sin-Bearing.
- Forgiveness can only be accomplished by sin-bearing and sin-bearing means a cross. It means that to God and it must mean that to us. That is why our Blessed Lord said, “If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
- The meaning of the Cross is Love bearing the sin of the beloved because of oneness with Him. We can know the sin-bearer Christ only as we bear the sins of others. We are redeemed in order to be redeemers and we are not saved until God makes us saviors.
The Christian has to go with Our Lord into the Garden of Gethsemane and must pass from there to Calvary, filling up in his body what is lacking to the Sufferings of Christ, for his body’s sake, which is the Church. We cannot, like Pilate, wash our hands and say, “I am innocent of the blood of the world and innocent of the sufferings of the world.” (Matthew 27:24)
- If the Church is a church indeed, it is a body of sin-bearing people, people who love with the Love of God that is shed abroad in their hearts. They are a body of people who can forgive because they have been forgiven, who have been loved and therefore they can become lovers. Unless the Church of Christ is by Love so united with the whole of mankind that the sin of the world is the sin of the Church, the disgrace of the world is the disgrace of the Church, the shame of the world the shame of the Church, the poverty of the world. the poverty of the Church, then it is no church at all.
The church is not and never can be an end in itself.
It is a means of salvation for the world, not just our own sanctification; we cannot save ourselves alone. We pray in the context of Our Father, not my Father, our daily bread, not my daily bread.
The church is the agent of salvation for mankind; it is not a refuge of peace.
It is an army preparing for war. We seek security, but only in sacrifice, and this is the mark of the Church and the hallmark of the Cross itself. And if the sin of our modern slums and the degradation that they cause; if the sin of our overcrowded, rotten houses and the ugliness and vice they bring; if the sin of unemployment with the damnation of body and soul that it means to men and women; if the sin of the heartless, thoughtless luxury at one end standing out against the squalid and degrading poverty of Africa and Asia and Latin America at the other; if the sin of commercial trickery and dishonesty and the wholesale defrauding of the poor; if the sin of prostitution and the murder of women and children by disease; and if the sin of war, the very sins which are but the bursting and the festering of all the filth the others have bred in years of miscalled peace; if all of that is not laid upon the Church as a burden and upon us as members of the Church and if we do not feel it, we are not worthy members of the Church. We have missed our vocation.
This is Christian morality, not just the keeping of the commandments. It’s love; it’s total commitment, and it’s taking upon ourselves the sins of others.
This is the New Law: Love God, Love Your Neighbor.
God love you.
1. In today’s lesson on – Law of Love – Total Commitment what stood out the most to you?
2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “Is Christianity easy?” to this lesson?
3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of why God gave us the LAW of LOVE ?
4. Now that you have learned more about – Law of Love – Total Commitment what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?
1699. “Life in the Holy Spirit fulfills the vocation of man (chapter one). This life is made up of divine charity and human solidarity (chapter two). It is graciously offered as salvation (chapter three). ”
THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
1700. “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son[Lk 15:11-32 .] to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity. ”
ARTICLE 1 – MAN: THE IMAGE OF GOD
1701. “‘Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.'[GS 22.] It is in Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God,'[Col 1:15 ; cf. 2 Cor 4:4 .] that man has been created ‘in the image and likeness’ of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God.[Cf. GS 22.]”
1702. “The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the union of the divine persons among themselves (cf. chapter two). ”
1703. “Endowed with ‘a spiritual and immortal’ soul,[GS 14 # 2.] the human person is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.'[GS 24 # 3.] From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.”
1704. “The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection ‘in seeking and loving what is true and good.'[GS 15 # 2.]”
1705. “By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an ‘outstanding manifestation of the divine image.'[GS 17.]”
1706. “By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him ‘to do what is good and avoid what is evil.'[GS 16.] Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person.”
1707. “‘Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history.'[GS 13 # 1.] He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:
Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness.[GS 13 # 2.]”
1708. “By his Passion, Christ delivered us from Satan and from sin. He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us. ”
ARTICLE 2 – OUR VOCATION TO BEATITUDE
I. THE BEATITUDES
1716. “The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.[Mt 5:3-12 .] ”
1717. “The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection; they shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations; they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples; they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints. ”
II. THE DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS
1718. “The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:
We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.[St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 3, 4: PL 32,1312.]
How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.[St. Augustine, Conf. 10, 20: PL 32, 791.] ”
1719. “The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith. ”
CHAPTER THREE – GOD’S SALVATION: LAW AND GRACE
1949. “Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him:
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.[Phil 2:12-13 .] ”
ARTICLE 1 – THE MORAL LAW
1950. “The moral law is the work of divine Wisdom. Its biblical meaning can be defined as fatherly instruction, God’s pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it proscribes the ways of evil, which turn him away from God and his love. It is at once firm in its precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love. ”
1951. “Law is a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the common good. The moral law presupposes the rational order, established among creatures for their good and to serve their final end, by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator. All law finds its first and ultimate truth in the eternal law. Law is declared and established by reason as a participation in the providence of the living God, Creator and Redeemer of all. ‘Such an ordinance of reason is what one calls law.'[Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum: AAS 20 (1887/88), 597; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 90, 1.]
Alone among all animate beings, man can boast of having been counted worthy to receive a law from God: as an animal endowed with reason, capable of understanding and discernment, he is to govern his conduct by using his freedom and reason, in obedience to the One who has entrusted everything to him.[Cf. Tertullian, Adv. Marc, 2, 4: PL 2, 288-289.]”
1952. “There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated: eternal law – the source, in God, of all law; natural law; revealed law, comprising the Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the Gospel; finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws. ”
1953. “The moral law finds its fullness and its unity in Christ. Jesus Christ is in person the way of perfection. He is the end of the law, for only he teaches and bestows the justice of God: ‘For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified.'[Rom 10:4 .]”
I. THE NATURAL MORAL LAW
1954. “Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:
The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.[Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum, 597.] ”
1955. “The ‘divine and natural’ law[GS 89 # 1.] shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts, which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one’s equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called ‘natural,’ not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:
Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.[St. Augustine, De Trin. 14, 15, 21: PL 42,1052.]
The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.[St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. I.]”
1956. “The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:
For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense …. To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.[Cicero, Rep. III, 22, 33.] ”
1975. “According to Scripture the Law is a fatherly instruction by God which prescribes for man the ways that lead to the promised beatitude, and proscribes the ways of evil. ”
1976. “‘Law is an ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the one who is in charge of the community’ (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 90, 4).”
1977. “Christ is the end of the law [cf. Rom 10:4 .]; only he teaches and bestows the justice of God.”
1978. “The natural law is a participation in God’s wisdom and goodness by man formed in the image of his Creator. It expresses the dignity of the human person and forms the basis of his fundamental rights and duties. ”
1979. “The natural law is immutable, permanent throughout history. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. It is a necessary foundation for the erection of moral rules and civil law. ”
1980. “The Old Law is the first stage of revealed law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten Commandments. ”
1981. “The Law of Moses contains many truths naturally accessible to reason. God has revealed them because men did not read them in their hearts. ”
1982. “The Old Law is a preparation for the Gospel.”
1983. “The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit received by faith in Christ, operating through charity. It finds expression above all in the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount and uses the sacraments to communicate grace to us.”
1984. “The Law of the Gospel fulfills and surpasses the Old Law and brings it to perfection: its promises, through the Beatitudes of the Kingdom of heaven; its commandments, by reforming the heart, the root of human acts. ”
1985. “The New Law is a law of love, a law of grace, a law of freedom.”
1986. “Besides its precepts the New Law includes the evangelical counsels. ‘The Church’s holiness is fostered in a special way by the manifold counsels which the Lord proposes to his disciples in the Gospel’ (LG 42 # 2).”