The first reading at Mass today, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time, comes from the Book of Deuteronomy. It was chosen because of the Gospel of today’s consideration of the importance of the ‘Law’.
Moses said to the people: ‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you. You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God just as I lay them down for you. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?’
‘Law’ often has negative connotations in Christianity. We are more attracted by the language of ‘freedom’ and ‘gospel’, sometimes opposed to ‘law’ by St Paul, and taken up in invective by reformers ever since.
Truth is the fullness of the Law is Christ, even as he is the Good News enfleshed, and perfect exponent of the freedom of the new covenant, new Law.
Learning to live by the Law, by Christ, the way, the truth and the life, can seem constraining. It does after all mean making choices. But the right choices, the choices that lead to fulfilment of our nature, and by grace, our potential… who would not wish to make those.
The gift of the Law to Moses – and through him to Israel – marks a step on the way to the revelation of the fullness of the Law, which is later made known more fully yet in a new outpouring of love, made known in Christ.
Carving of the giving of the Law to Moses. Christian sarcophagus, Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence antiques. © 2014, Allen Morris