There is a danger when we speak of God’s Law, to think of it as we might think of any secular law. We usually think of secular law merely to be some sort of impersonal code written by some nameless legislators or bureaucrats. We have not met them, we do not know them, or necessarily love or trust them. In effect, they are an abstraction in our mind called “the government” or “the man” or just “they,” as in, “They don’t want you to park here” or “They’ll arrest you for that.”
But God’s Law is Personal – But when it comes to God’s Law we are dealing with something quite different, something very personal, if we have faith. For God’s law is not given by someone we do not know, love or trust. If we have faith, God is someone we do in fact know, someone we love and trust.Further, we believe he loves us and wants what is best for us.
God’s law is not the equivalent of a no-parking sign hung by some nameless, faceless city government. Rather it is a personal exhortation, instruction and command given by someone we know and who knows and loves us.
Consider an example. Suppose you pull in front of my church to park and you see a no-parking sign. Now suppose you also decide to ignore it. Alright, you have broken a law, not a big one, but a law nonetheless. You’ve chosen to ignore a sign put there by “the government.” But suppose another scenario: I your beloved blogger, and the pastor of the Church you are attending or visiting, is standing out there, and I say to you, “Please don’t park here.” Now the situation is very different. I, someone you know and love, 🙂 , am personally requesting that you leave the space open for some reason.
When you experience the law in this personal way, you are far more likely to follow it, because someone you know and trust is asking and directing you. But what if, despite this, you still choose to ignore the instruction not to park there. Well then, the situation is quite different, for, in this case, the law is personal. The refusal to follow it now becomes personal as well and there is a far more serious situation we are dealing with.
Scripture: In the first reading for Mass today (Monday, week one of Lent) the Law of the Lord is announced. I will not reproduce the whole reading but here is an excerpt:
“You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.
You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD.
“You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.
I am the LORD. (Lev 19:11-14)
Note how the litanies of the law each end: “I am the Lord.” (These are but two of other litanies). I am the Lord. On the one hand it gives solemnity to the pronouncement. But, at another level what God is saying is, This is Me talking. It is I who speak to you. I who created you, who led you out of slavery, parted the Red Sea, dispatched your enemies, fed you in the desert and gave you drink from the rock. It I, I who love you, I who care for you, I who has given you everything you have, I who want what is best for you, I who have earned your trust. It is I, your Father who speak to you and give you this command.
God’s law is personal. Do we see and experience it this way? This will happen only if we come to know the Lord personally. Otherwise, the danger becomes that we see the Law of God as merely an impersonal code, an abstract set of rules to follow. They might as well have been issued by the deity, the godhead, or even just the religious leaders of the day.
Hence a gift to pray for in terms of keeping God’s Law is a closer walk with the Lord and an experience of his love for us. Such an experience is a great help in loving the Law of the Lord. For when we love the Lord, we love his law and see it not as an imposition, but a personal code of love that is meant to protect us. And when we offend against it, either willfully or through weakness, we are more able to repent with a more perfect contrition for we experience that we have offended someone we love and who is deserving of all our love.
Abba – St. Paul indicates that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is that we are able to experience God as Abba. Abba is the Hebrew and Aramaic family word for father. It is translated by some as Papa, or Dad. But however it is translated, it indicates a deep love and tender affection for the Father. He is not merely “The Father” in some abstract, or merely titular sense. He is someone I experience as my own dear Father as someone who loves me. It is a personal and family relationship that the Holy Spirit wants to grant us.
This personal relationship brings God’s law alive, makes it personal. And so God says as he reminds of of his Law: I am the Lord. This is me talking – It is I, the one who loves you.
I might add that we also need to experience this with regard to the Church. Many see the Church in am impersonal way, as an institution. But the real gift is to see the Church as Christ’s Beloved Bride and our Mother. In this sense we love the Church and grow daily in affection for her, not seeing her “rules” as impersonal, but, rather as the guidance and direction of a loving mother.
In this video Fr. Francis Martin beautifully describes the gift to love the Father with deep affection: