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Monday Musing – Letter of the Law, Spirit of the Law

I read today’s Gospel from Luke and my breath caught in my throat…

“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”

Rules and law exist for a reason – they create order. However, there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law? In the first reading, from Romans, St. Paul says:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Of course we need the law, but we need the Spirit too. The law and the not-law lead us into either rigidity or chaos. Jesus comes and makes manifest the great both/and of the Gospel. The law matters – yes! But should we not be healed, healed by Christ – because of the law? Imagine being completely “out of order” for 18 years, like the woman in the Gospel. The day you encounter Jesus, just happens to be the Sabbath – what tough luck. Maybe they can meet up tomorrow?

It is of course, ridiculous to think this – Jesus sees her, calls to her, heals her.

On. The. Sabbath.

As someone obsessed with balance – probably because of my own inability to stay balanced – I grow weary of those who are dug in about the law. I also grow weary of those who are dug into going far outside the law. No – not civil or criminal law – Church law.

I often find myself wondering if Jesus would be as painstakingly nitpicking with us, as some of His detractors were to him? I can’t imagine that he would be.

I’d like to believe that is the idea of letter of the law and spirit of the law – yes, the law matters, but without love, mercy and compassion it is as cold as stone tablets without life.

The word – the law – came to Moses from God, on cold stone tablets. Jesus is the Word and Law – brought to life.

I remember once when dealing with a canonical issue in my life, finding out the true meaning of the great both/and of letter and spirit. And that is what I think about when I hear this Gospel.

I am also acutely aware are set free with Jesus – can we accept that?

What about you? What do you think about the both/and? Can we accept our freedom and then share it with mercy and love?

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3 Responses

  1. If the law is written “on your heart” it will have the filter of compassion and love….at least that’s if your heart is in the right place I think. If you “love the Lord your God with all your heart”, and if God is love, then our hearts will be focused on God and all that is filtered through our hearts will be like Him.

  2. I guess I see the letter of the law and the spirit of the law ever in some sorts of tension — or the ‘yin and yang’ of good Christian living…

    Going along with Rosemary, I also sense that Godde for ever gives us a new spirit and a new heart, on which God’s law is written and in which God’s spirit is poured.

    Balance, equilibrium, however, usually happens in a split second and soon disappears — at least in my own life.

    As I feel more drawn to the spirit than to the law, this leads me to think that I must make a point to listen to those who are drawn to the law, for they come with the ingredient missing in my own life.

    In conclusion, Fran, then, I see that I need the input of those who differ from me so that together we can become both/and. Alone, I might not reach that equilibrium. 🙂

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