Sunday, February 13, 2011

Homily / Sermon for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. (Matthew 5:17)

Is breaking the law the same as committing a sin?

I think most of the time we think it is. To kill is against the law. To steal is against the law. To lie and deceive - especially in the witness box - is against the law. All these are certainly sins.

And then lessers laws, intended for our well being and protection, should not be broken. Speed limits and tax regulations however irksome, we know should be followed. To break them cooly and deliberately is probably sin.

But law has its limits. Every sin is not against the law, by any means. It is not against the law to commit adultery, however selfish or damaging that may be. It is not against the law to covet, or disrespect your parents, or worship false Gods, and nowadays at least I don't think we would want it to be.

And sometimes the law is just wrong. Some laws remove people's rights, or restrain free speech, or imprison people unjustly. Some governments engage in torture, and even enforce abortions. Sometimes civil laws go against the moral law.

And the message of Jesus, given at at different time and in different circumstances tells us both the extent and the limits of law. Yes it is wrong to kill and to betray and to deceive, but the outward observance of the law is nothing - just a jot or tittle - without the inward observance of the heart.

Laws may be able to limit the worst excesses of humanity, but without conversion of the heart, it remains empty and we may become contemptuous. Yet if the purpose and direction of the law is clear to us, then we no longer have need of its chapter and verse.

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