신앙과 교리

Home > 신앙과 교리 > 미사강론

제목 The Road to the Eternal Life - Fulfilling the Law(2015-07-12)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2015-07-13



The Road to the Eternal Life

- Fulfilling the Law, the Moral Law (12th JULY 2015)


My dear brethren,


 Today we have the continuation of chapter 6 of the epistle of St Paul to the Romans; we had the first part last Sunday. In this chapter St Paul teaches us a very important and very consoling truth: by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ it is possible to fulfil the Law, the moral Law; it is possible to avoid evil/sin and to do good and thereby go to Heaven. St Augustine puts it in one marvellous short expression: grace fulfils the law; what the law commands, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ accomplishes.

 What comes from God ought to return to God. God is the first cause and the last end of all things: all things come from Him, and must return to God. “I am Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end” (Apoc. 21:6).


 How do things return to God? By the Law of God! Thus God is the Creator of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, of all material and spiritual things. Now look at all material things: they all perfectly follow the laws that God has set to them: law of gravity, laws of electromagnetism, laws of chemistry, and whatever other law God has set to them.


 There is not one single planet that says: “I am tired to turn around the sun for so many years, I want to go my own way.” There is not one single particle in the whole universe that does not follow perfectly the physical laws that God has set! In doing so all material things give praise to God: that perfect obedience to His laws, universal obedience, is a marvellous praise to His Wisdom and power; every beautiful sunrise and sunset, every beautiful landscape, all the stars of heaven and all the little flowers on earth, etc. by their beauty and harmony and perfect fulfilment of God’s laws are MATTER OF PRAISE for angels and men, who contemplating God’s work burst into the praise of the Creator of all things.


 “Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory, and honour, and power: because thou hast created all things; and for thy will they were, and have been created” (Apoc. 4:11). This is how material creatures return to God.

 Now you might say: but they have no merit, they are not free! Yes, indeed, and this is the reason why God created spiritual beings, angels and men, and endowed them with freedom so that they may obey His Law out of love and not out of necessity.


 God did not give us freedom to disobey His Law, but to obey His Law out of love. This is very important to understand: we are free in order to obey God’s Law out of love, not in order to disobey His Law. And the Law of God itself is a law of love: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mt. 22:37-39).


 God Himself is Charity. St John indeed says: “God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). And St Paul says: “The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). (“Love” here translates the Greek word  “agape - ἀγάπη”, which is a spiritual love, and not the sensual love “eros - ἔρος”, because a lot of evil comes from sensuality).
 
 St Gregory the Great teaches that we return to God “gressibus amoris – by steps of love.” St Thomas explains that by Charity we give to God the first place in our lives (thus the first day of the week is dedicated to Him) and we order all things to his glory, all our activity to Him, thus establishing Him King of our whole self. And there is a marvellous reward for this: eternal life in Heaven, beatific vision, to see God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost – for all eternity, sharing in the very happiness of God Himself! This is truly marvellous, this is God’s plan. And it is good.

 But some free creatures abuse of their freedom and disobey God’s Law. And this is terrible, terrible for them, because thereby they deserve Hell. They say to God: “we will not follow your way; we prefer our own ways!” Instead of loving God above all things, they prefer the creatures to the Creator; they put the creatures above the Creator in their esteem.


 They live for money, for pleasures, for their own selves, despising their neighbour, robbing him, raping, and falling into all kinds of disorders and perversities too frequent in the modern world. Sin is the great drama of mankind. “Two loves have built two cities: the love of self so far as the contempt of God has built the earthly city (the city of sin), the love of God so far as the contempt of self has built the heavenly city (the city of God)” (St Augustine, the City of God, 14:28). Sin is a fundamental disorder, that undermines the whole order of our spiritual life, it sets death in the soul and leads to everlasting punishment.

 Thus the return of creatures to God is by following the Law of God, which is beautiful, but not optional. It is a strict duty.

 Now God is not overcome by evil, but rather overcomes evil by good: He decided to redeem man by sending His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save men from their sins. But there, wicked men such as Luther, distort this redemption: some Protestant indeed pretend that, since the first plan of God in the Old Testament to save men by the Law did not work, in the New Testament God has established a new plan – to save men by faith – and obedience to the law is no longer necessary.


 This is not true at all. The truth is that Christ saves us first by paying the debt of our sins, restoring the honour of His Father, and washing our soul and healing our soul, EMPOWERING it to follow His Law by His grace. And this is the whole theme of the epistle today.

 By baptism we have been washed from the stain of sin: “according to his mercy, he saved us, by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost;” (Tit. 3:5). That renovation precisely restores the strength of the soul, so that we live no more unto sin, but unto God. Indeed “know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death? For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).


 We are dead to sin; the body of sin is buried: finished, no more sin, sin is out of question for a good Christian. St Paul indeed continues: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer” (Rom. 6:6). Our Lord Himself in the Gospel said the same to the woman taken in adultery: “Go, and now sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). He had already said to the man whom He healed at the pool of Bethsaida: “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee” (Jn. 5:14).

 “Sin no more” is the negative side; the positive side is to live unto God: “So do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). St Paul calls it “the likeness of his resurrection”: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ: Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him” (Rom. 6:8-9).


 So the new life in Christ is such that we too can “die no more” spiritually, that is, sin no more. By the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are enabled to sin no more, we are enabled to fulfil the law – not to break the law with impunity! “Let no sin therefore reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin; but present yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of justice unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:12-14).

 How can that be? St Paul explained a little before, in chapter 5 to the Romans: “because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). It is the Holy Ghost, by pouring His charity in our hearts, that helps us to win the battle over sin.


 Thus in temptation pray and you will not fall; I go further and say: it is impossible to fall as long as you pray; God will not abandon those who ask Him the grace to be faithful to Him, to keep His Commandments; pray and do penance because “this kind [of devil] is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:20).


 St Thomas Aquinas teaches that there is a certain infallibility of prayer: prayer with not fail to obtain when you ask something pleasing to God, needed for your salvation, with humility and perseverance. If you ask for money, for pleasures, for earthly things, God may not grant your prayer (and for such things it is sometimes better that He does not grant such prayers); but when you ask him the grace to obey His commandments, to fulfil His will, and you ask with humility and perseverance,


 He WILL grant you what you ask. He indeed wants your salvation more than you want it yourself: He died on the Cross for your salvation! “I am come to cast fire on the earth [the fire of divine charity]; and what will I, but that it be kindled?” (Lk. 12:49).

 Therefore, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we can fulfil the Law, we can live without mortal sin – and we MUST live without mortal sin!


 Sometimes, when speaking with people, one finds out that the other is living in the state of sin, either in adultery, or other such grievous sin, and you ask: where would you be, if you had died yesterday? Normally, if you are speaking with a Catholic, he will answer: “well, I think I would be in Hell.” And then I ask: “do you really want to go there?” The answer is then much faster: “No!” Then I ask: “If you don’t want to go to hell, why do you do the things that lead there? If you want to go to Heaven, shouldn’t you do the things that lead to heaven?”


 But if one answered: “Oh no, Father, I would not go to hell, because I trust in Christ, and He said: God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (Jn. 3:16). 


 How could that be, you live in the state of sin, you accumulate offences upon offences. St Paul says well: “thinkest thou this, O man, … that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering? Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his works.” (Rom. 2:3-6).

 He who claims to trust in Christ and breaks His commandments, falling in all kinds of mortal sin, deny by their works what they profess with their mouth: “They profess that they know God: but in their works they deny him; being abominable, and incredulous, and to every good work reprobate” (Tit. 1:16). Their faith is dead, and such faith does not save from hell, as St James says: “the devils also believe and tremble” (Jac. 2:19).


 The faith that saves is the living faith, “faith that worketh by charity” (Gal. 5:6). “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says the same thing in the Gospel: “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 7:21).


 Saying, “Lord, Lord”: they had the faith, but that is not enough! If they don’t put it in practice, then: “Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Mt. 7:22-23).
 
 Thus it is clear that the moral Law of God is still required in the New Testament, but by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we are empowered to fulfil it. The ceremonial law is replaced by the Sacraments of the new Law; the judicial law (giving the punishments for sin) is moderated by the mercy of the new law (to the adulteress, Christ said: “Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more” Jn. 8:11).


 But the moral Law is elevated to higher requirements: “For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20). And our Lord continues: don’t even be angry with you brother! Not to distinguish between the ceremonial laws, the judicial laws and the moral law, the Protestants who claim that the moral law is no longer obligatory fall into a very grave error. It is a great impiety on the part of those who either claim that the moral Law is no longer obligatory, or who claim that, since God is merciful everyone goes go Heaven, no matter what he does.

 God is merciful indeed, but His mercy leads to penance: “Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?” (Rom. 2:4). He commands us to be holy: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Thus tending towards holiness is not optional. The good news is that it is now possible by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who helps us to be faithful.

 The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Virgin is the best proof of the power of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: this is how much He can achieve in a soul that does not put any obstacle to Him! Let us pray to her that she may help us to be faithful to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we too may avoid sin and advance on the path of the commandments of God, the path of charity that leads to eternal life!   Amen.


 Fr. F. Laisney (sspxasia)