If there is one constant complaint made against the Church, it is concerning the various rules which she imposes upon the faithful. Mass obligations, fasting and abstinence, what is or isn’t a sin, what one can or cannot do; all these things seem too much for many people. They will perhaps use today’s Gospel account against the Church, saying that she erects manmade traditions against the law of God. They will call for the Church to change this rule or to relax this belief so as to conform to the modern, enlightened view on the matter. Our opponents are terribly mistaken in understanding the distinctions between the laws of men and the law of God.
The law of God is that which has been established by God Himself for either a certain period or until the end of time. This law is given to us by God so that we may come to know the truth and begin to live it out. We can compare the law of God to the law of parents imposed upon their children: the parents want their children to be responsible, mature adults. To do that, they must impose rules upon the children which give them some guiding principles. The parents make the children brush their teeth, eat their vegetables, clean their rooms, and so on, because this will be necessary for them in adulthood. It is the same with the law of God: God our heavenly Father gives us these rules and beliefs so that we may mature to the fullness of faith, toward truly becoming His adopted children. Whether it is belief in the positive things such as the Trinity and the Incarnation or the negative such as the avoidance of abortion and contraception, all these things are given to us by God through the Church for our good.
The law of man, however, comes from within humanity itself. This law does not necessarily oppose the law of God, but it is concerned more with the current day. The speed limit is a law of man which is good in that it helps protect people while driving. But the law of man can be established in opposition to the law of God. More and more do we see this latter done in the ways in which our society continually counteracts the law of God. You don’t feel that you are the gender which God has given you? No problem; redefine yourself however you wish. Don’t believe that the marital act is meant for the procreation of children? No problem; we’ll just provide you with contraception to counter that nasty side effect, or you can get an abortion if that doesn’t work. Can’t stand that marriage was created by God for one man and one woman? Never fear! We can make marriage in our own image and likeness, letting anyone marry whomever they want.
This is the danger of forgetting how we were fashioned in the beginning. God has implanted within us the ability to grasp His law from a natural perspective along with revealing to us the essentials of that same law. It is not difficult for us to know what it is that God desires for us and from us. Yet humanity seems more and more eager to embrace its own interpretations instead of God’s will for us. Saint James tells us in our second reading that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God who is without alteration or shadow. But our society desires to dwell in the shadows and the thousand various alterations of the law to its own misguided purpose, instead of receiving from the Father of lights the truth which is meant to illumine our hearts.
We as Catholics are called to observe all which holy mother Church teaches and commands as coming from God. This means that we must reject the ways of sinful society which writes its own law. But this also puts us against that same society, which wants to force the Church and force us to obey it. This is the “dictatorship of relativism” as it has been famously defined by Pope Benedict XVI before his election to the papacy. The world is tolerant of any number of man-made rules or definitions, but it is intolerant of the lone voice of the Church proclaiming that there is something true, that there is Someone who is Truth Himself. “He was in the world ... and the world knew Him not,” Saint John proclaims at the beginning of his Gospel: the Word sent from God ‘came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him.”
If we are to remain Catholic in this spiralling swirl of society, we must cling to the law of God given to us by Christ. Furthermore, we obey this law not in a rigid legalism which sees the Faith as a punch ticket: attend so many Masses, do so many fasts, and your ticket for heaven is completed. We must live as Moses exhorted the Israelites to live so that the other nations around them would marvel at their wisdom and intelligence in understanding the law of God. We must live as Saint James tells us to do: to be doers of the word and not merely hearers. We must live above all, the command of Christ to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourself.
Let us pray to God that we may receive the grace necessary to overcome the dictatorship of relativism and to live uprightly before God. Let us purge ourselves of all which is within us which leads towards being unclean in the law. Let us desire more and more to follow God not as a robot follows its programming, but as a child follows their parent. Let us love God for the law He has given us, for the Church which teaches us this law and pours upon us the riches of this law. Let us do the justice of God’s law so that we may live in the presence of the Lord for all eternity.