REFLECTION: The law of love PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 February 2015 13:16

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

To be sure, that’s the law that should govern us who, being created in the image and likeness of God who is love, are meant to love and for love. In short, love is the be-all and end-all of our life and our whole being. Short of that, we are actually not living as we ought to live.

That’s why when Christ was asked what the greatest commandment was—read, what does God really want us to do—he replied very clearly: it is to love God with everything that we are and have, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Later on, he perfected that divine imperative by giving us a new commandment, and that is that we have to love one another as he himself has loved us. Christ, who declared himself to be our way, our truth and our life, is the standard of the love we ought to have.

He is the giver and author of that love, the very pattern  as well as the goal of that love. A love that does not come from him, or does not have at least some semblance of that love, albeit unwittingly held by us, is not true love.

We need to do everything to be able to love as Christ himself loves us. It is a love that has clear do’s and don’ts, although it is also a love full of mercy and compassion. It’s a love that perfectly blends truth and charity, justice and mercy and compassion, and is capable of being consistent despite the changing circumstances of place and time.

In this regard, it might be good to review the doctrine on the ‘law of gradualness’ as contrasted to the ‘gradualness of the law’ in order to have a good idea of how this love with clear content that is exclusive can be made compatible also with the demands of mercy and compassion that are inclusive.

This is now a relevant and urgent point worth considering given the fact the papacy of Pope Francis whose thrust is mercy and compassion is trying to delineate the grey areas where truth and charity are at play, where justice and mercy and compassion have to blend.

The ‘law of gradualness’ means that we have to have a decisive break with sin while leading a progressive path toward a total union with God’s will and his loving demands. It’s a gradual process with a clear idea of what sin is. In this law, we don’t deny the objectivity and gravity of sin, even as we try our best to grapple with it in varying degrees.

The “gradualness of the law” implies that the objectivity of the sin and its gravity may vary according to one’s subjective understanding of it or of his condition and circumstances at a given moment.

It is a total subordination of the objective to the subjective. A sin may be a sin or not, its gravity grave or not, depending totally on how one sees it or on how his condition would grapple with it.

This is not right. While it’s true that subjectivity has a say on the gravity of sin, it cannot redefine the objectivity of sin. Sin is sin irrespective of one’s knowledge and awareness of it or not.

But it’s also true that pastoral and disciplinary aspects of the morality of our human acts, especially our sinful acts, would somehow be adapted to the circumstances of the person, and of time and place, etc.

This is where a continuing assessment of things ought to be done especially by our Church leaders with the participation of as wide a contributor of people as possible.

Our estimation of the love that Christ wants for us will always be a work in progress especially in its pastoral and disciplinary aspects. We can never say that we already have it so perfectly that we do not need anymore to make any improvement or refinement.

Let’s remember that our pastoral and disciplinary laws and ways, no matter how effective they may be in a given period of time or in a given place, are at best human estimations that will always be in need of updating, adapting, revising, modifying, enriching, etc. They will always remain human, and as such will always have changeable parts though there are also permanent and absolute parts.

This is, I think, what Pope Francis is trying to do with his insistent call for more mercy and compassion to those who need to be better treated by updated pastoral and disciplinary laws.