11 Law, Legalism and Faith - Joaquim Reis

posted Jan 11, 2018, 12:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 12:04 AM ]
Pope Francis has been persistently calling our attention not to be legalistic minded, and reminds us that love and justice are more important in our Faith journey to God. He says, "This is the path that Jesus teaches us, totally opposite to that of the Doctors of the Law. And it is this path of love through Justice that leads to God. The path that leads from love to knowledge to discernment to the total fulfilment that results in holiness, salvation and encounter with Jesus. Whereas the path of being attached only to the laws, to the letter of the law leads to closure, egoism, the arrogance of considering oneself to be in the right, the so called holiness of appearances.' This in short is the message our Pontiff is strongly putting across to his flock as he leads us to a loving and wholesome relationship with God.

For the purpose of appreciating what the Holy Father has been saying, let me illustrate with a very common example. Stealing is a sin as it breaks a commandment of the God-given Law, therefore entailing punishment proportionate to the offence committed. However, can we punish this offender without considering the circumstances like being under the constraints of hunger? The court of law is rigid and calls spade a spade, and quite often, there is not much room for love, compassion and understanding. This is an accusation Jesus often makes to those who follow the Law with rigidity, the Pope said. "The Law was not drawn up to enslave us but to set us free, to make us God's children," he said. Another aspect is that we use the Law of God to judge others too quickly, without even trying to analyse the situation in which the other is doing the so called 'wrong' according to our perception. Frequently, it results in distortion of facts, gossip, et al, and finally in disruption of relationships distancing from the love of God. I find a great spiritual wisdom in the exhortation of the Holy Father that those safeguarding the Law of God remain closed up there, and forget that God is not only God of the Law, but also God of History and surprises – like when He freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; a God who is always new and progressive – like when He forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery; a God who is against hypocrisy – like when He confronted the religious leaders of His time for laying unnecessary burdens on the people of Israel, and not lifting a finger to help them carry their burdens; and finally, a God interested in embracing all peoples – like the Samaritan woman at the well.