Skip to content

Obedience and the Law

1st Saturday of Lent 2019 (readings)

Christ came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. So today, when we hear God speaking to us in Deuteronomy, telling us we must observe his statutes, the question that pops into mind is: what statutes? And how can we apply these to our lives today?

The Gospel gives us a clue: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. As a Church, we do a really good job of preaching on how to love our neighbor, but it seems that at times we’re hard pressed to explain how we follow the first and greatest commandment, to love God.

Now, the Church, as we know, has the authority to set down laws for the faithful. This she does in Canon Law, but there’s a certain subset of these laws that don’t get much attention; so little, in fact, as to be almost forgotten.

These laws are called the Precepts of the Church. According to the Catechism, they are the, “necessary minimum, in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor (CCC 2041).” These, “precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life (CCC 2041).”

What this means is that these laws are the bare minimum that Catholics are obliged to follow, but they are guaranteed by the Church to grow our Love of God; and of neighbor.

These 5 precepts are pretty clear, so I’ll state them simply:

  1. attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor (resting from servile labor on Sundays is often overlooked, but is required of us. If God rested on the 7th day, we should too)
  2. confess your sins at least once a year (though going monthly is objectively better, though not required)
  3. receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season
  4. observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church (fasting is required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; additionally, some form of penance is required on Fridays throughout the year)
  5. help to provide for the needs of the Church according to ability

Canon law states that, “The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of [her] ministers. [The faithful] are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources.”

To end, I leave you with this quote from St. John of the Cross, “Obedience is a penance of the soul, and for that reason a sacrifice more acceptable than all corporal penances. Thence it happens that God loves more the least degree of obedience in you, than all the other services you might think to render Him.”

Published inScriptural Reflections