14 October, Thursday — The True Value of the Law

Oct 14 – Memorial for St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr

St. Callistus (d. 223) was born a slave, owned by Carpophorus, a Christian in the household of Caesar. His master entrusted a large sum to Callistus to open a bank, which took in several deposits, made several loans to people who refused to pay them back, and went broke. Knowing he would be personally blamed and punished, Callistus fled, but was caught and returned to his owner. Several depositers begged for his life, believing that he had not lost the money, but had stolen and hid it.

They were wrong; he wasn’t a thief, just a victim, but he was sentenced to work the tin mines. By a quirk of Roman law, the ownership of Callistus was transferred from Carpophorus to the state, and when he was later ransomed out of his sentence with a number of other Christians, he became a free man. Pope St. Zephyrinus put Callistus in charge of the Roman public burial grounds, today still called the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. He later became an archdeacon and the 16th pope.

Most of what we know about him has come down to us from his critics, including an anti-Pope of the day. He was, on more than one occasion, accused of heresy for such actions as permitting a return to Communion for sinners who had repented and done penance, or for proclaiming that differences in economic classes were no barrier to marriage.

This last put him in conflict with Roman civil law, but he stated that in matters concerning the Church and the sacraments, Church law trumped civil law. In both cases he taught what the Church has taught for centuries, including today, and though a whole host of schismatics wrote against him, his crime seems to have been to practice orthodox Christianity. He was martyred for his faith.

  • Patron Saint Index

Rm 3:21-30
Lk 11:47-54

God’s justice that was made known through the Law and the Prophets has now been revealed outside the Law, since it is the same justice of God that comes through faith to everyone.

Why do we have laws in our society? The law brings order. It makes sure that there is fairness and safety for everyone. And the law outlines how we should live within our community.

What about the Law in the Bible? And the Canon Law of our Church? Why do we have them? The first reading gives us a very good explanation on the Law. And in this reflection, let us also extend it to the practices of the Catholic Church.

First, we get to know God through the Law and the practices in Church. We learned to genuflect when we enter the Church. The Church ‘tells us’ to genuflect to show our respect for God. Through this, we learn that God is someone above us. When I was young, I was taught that I should make the Sign of the Cross when we pass by a Catholic Church. Unfortunately, it wasn’t explained to me when I was a kid why we I had to do it. Now I know that I should do it because of God’s presence in the Tabernacle of the Church. This practice teaches me that God is truly present physically, here on earth.

Second, God teaches us how to live through these Laws. We shouldn’t kill, we should take a rest on the Sabbath and dedicate the day to the Lord. In the time of Moses, God also used the Law to teach hygiene and to make sure that there was no outbreak of leprosy in the settlements. So besides teaching us about God, the Law gives us the guidelines on how best to live our lives.

Third, the Laws are there so that we have an opportunity to humble ourselves in obedience before the Lord. We don’t always fully understand the why behind the laws and guidelines of the Church. Many times, we have our own thoughts, and we think differently than what our Holy Mother Church instructs us. At these times, God is giving us a very beautiful opportunity to humble ourselves and to submit our thoughts to God. It’s a chance for us to acknowledge that we don’t understand everything, and that ‘God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom’ (1 Cor 1:25).

At times when we have our own preferences, the Law gives us an opportunity to choose to be obedient to God. Our society teaches us that we shouldn’t follow blindly. However, following blindly is not the same as following God with faith. I actually imagine it like being in the dark, with my eyes wide open, or maybe being in the presence of so much light that I can’t see even with my eyes open, and then I give my hand to God so he can guide me.

The three points I’ve shared shows that there is something that God wants to accomplish beyond the Law. The Law is not the end in itself, but a tool used by God to bring us to holiness. In Theology of the Body, the laws provide an external constraint, such us telling us what we should and shouldn’t be doing. For example, we shouldn’t steal. However, when we don’t have this desire to steal, we don’t actually need the law. And I think that’s where God wants to lead us to.

God wants us to be transformed and converted such that we won’t even feel, or need, the existence of these laws. We won’t need reminders to express our love and devotion to God because we will automatically do it. We won’t need laws telling us what not to do with our neighbors because we will already choose to do what is most loving.

Are we focusing on the Law? Or are we looking at what the Law was really meant for?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, please give me the humility and obedience to submit myself to your Laws.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for not being so vague about what we need to do in order for us to become holy.

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