Sr M. Louise O'Rourke pddm
Over the past 20 months or so, we have become accustomed (or not!) to so many rules and regulations as we continue to overcome the COVID 19 pandemic. Only a year ago we were asking ourselves is it ‘permitted’ to go beyond 5km or outside our county? Even now, even in our Churches there are still so many things we can and can’t do…stay 2 metres apart, no choirs, no sign of peace, etc. We are surrounded by laws, rules, regulations, policies, guidelines, codes and more. It can be tiring, frustrating and tedious, for those who have to follow them and for those who have to oversee their application. When I was a student of Canon Law (the legal system of the Catholic Church), I was fascinated by the shortest canon in the Code of Canon Law, canon 1752 which reads: “The salvation of souls is the supreme law.” This canon is the kaleidoscopic lens through which we are called to read all of the other 1751 canons. Ironically it’s the very last canon and not the first! With the Gospel this Sunday, we are called also to use a lens though which to read the responses of Jesus to the questions from the Pharisees and the disciples about the law. The law serves to remind us of the communion with God and with one another. It is about our souls and about journeying together as followers of Jesus towards Heaven. It beckons us to follow the right path because it is the pilgrim way which leads to Jesus as the Way. It is not about moral policing or pointing fingers and picking out faults. Often we can convince ourselves that if we love God and follow the rules and laws, we will have a happy family or a carefree life- no problems, no drama, no challenges. But the truth is that in our communities and parishes people are living all kinds of damaged dreams. Relationships break down, be it at the level of family, marriage, friendship or work bonds. Some of it can’t be fixed as we would like it, no matter how much effort is invested into the situation. This doesn’t make us any less loved or perfect in God’s eyes or less Christian. In the readings for Mass for the week before Christmas, we contemplate the Father’s perfect love for the generations of imperfect people through whom Jesus traces his legal and biological lineage. We hear about all sorts and kinds of people, saints with a past, sinners with a future, our ancestors in the faith- a very motley crew! Yet Jesus continues to recall us to the ideal relationship which is modelled on the life of the Trinity- the perfect union of the Father, Son and Spirit. Our lives are all about seeking to have healthy, wholesome and integrated relationships. Each of the persons of the Trinity lives completely for the others; each is a complete gift of self to the others. We are called to do the same in whatever way of life the Lord has called us to. We live in relationship and in communion, but still as individuals with all our unique quirkiness, gifts, talents and weaknesses, striving to be the Face of Christ for those we meet each day. Anyone with blood going through their veins knows that love isn’t always hearts and flowers. It’s painful and it can hurt. Human love will never be enough, but God’s love is more than enough for all. Grace covers the gap between the spirit and the flesh, our willingness and our weakness. However, Jesus warns us of the risk of becoming ‘hard-hearted’. When Jesus was on the Cross, his heart was pierced and blood and water came forth. From suffering came blessings- the water of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. If we are hard- hearted in our hurts, it is anger and blame which flow instead of forgiveness, compassion and mercy. We pray for hearts joined to Christ.
This weekend we are called to remember and support those who are struggling in relationships and those affected by relationship breakdown. As the Gospel passage moves from speaking about commitment in marriage to speaking about the inclusion of children, we are reminded that these ‘little ones to whom the Kingdom belongs’, can deeply suffer and be left disorientated when relationships go a different route for the adults in these children’s lives. Let us make sure to support them. May the simplicity of the way the children approached Jesus be a lesson for us to go to Him in all our needs and allow ourselves to be blessed by Him.