For many of us, we have grown to find rules restrictive and constraining. We don’t like to be told what to do, and we can feel overwhelmed, suffocated, or even enslaved by the rules imposed upon us. And there are many who believe this to be the case when it comes to religion as well. The thoughts go like this: “Why must I do certain things and not do certain other things? Why should I submit to some authority I don’t even see, just because a lot of other people do? Moreover, religious people don’t even follow their own rules and it all seems like hypocrisy.”
The Truth is that Jesus came to bring freedom, to release us from the slavery of sin, a slavery of which we are far too often unaware. If we are careful to consider rules in our world, we can quickly see the benefits. Traffic rules and civil laws keep society orderly. Other rules and laws protect the vulnerable in our world. These are just rules and laws. God gives us rules to follow from his infinite justice, flowing from his infinite love for us. The Incarnation perfects the law of the covenant between God and his people because he is the fulfillment of the promises of that same covenant.
Luke’s Gospel sheds light on this very issue. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and was reading from the Prophet Isaiah: “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’” (NAB, (LK 4:18-19) After returning the scroll to the attendant, Jesus said, “’Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (4:21)
Jesus, the New Covenant of Love, is fulfilled and revealed in freedom. This freedom is not one free of rules or laws, but it is made possible by obeying his commandments. “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, but whoever is begotten of God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” (1JN 5:3-4) We are made free by obedience to the love of Christ.
Your Law calls me to freedom, Lord, a freedom from the chains and slavery of sin. Increase my desire for this life of love, and increase my faith, so that I may live more obediently according to your Law of Love. And let me share these same “glad tidings” with others, so that they also may come to know you and experience the joys of your freedom. Amen.