February 12, 2023 – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It’s often said that the Catholic Church lays heavy rules on her members, rules that can almost seem impossible. Mass every Sunday? No lying ever? Sexual purity all the time? I recently said to some non-Catholic friends that more than fifty adults were baptized at my parish at the Easter Vigil. One responded spontaneously with shock, “Whywould anyone do that?” In other words, why would someone willingly place themselves in a system with such demanding and rigorous rules?
Of course, no one in the history of religions is more demanding and rigorous than Jesus himself. In the Sermon on the Mount, he says you have to be holier than pharisees or you’re out. He says if you call someone a fool, you go to fiery Gehenna. He says you can’t even look at a woman with lust or you’re guilty of adultery (which was punishable by death). To top it all off, he says you can’t even get divorced and re-married. Doesn’t he know these are basically impossible demands? What world is he living in?
The new one, actually. He is the new world. Jesus’ words aren’t meant to condemn. They are meant to signal something new, a restored humanity. Jesus doesn’t just give external laws; he gives us his Holy Spirit to internalize the law through love. He wants to fill us with his love. That’s what the Church exists to do. Love demands extraordinary things. The “demands” of the Church only make sense because she is filled with Jesus’ love. That wildly demanding love is why we are Catholic.
— Father John Muir ©LPi