Today’s homily is for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 7 , 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.
There is a saying these days that is quite popular: Laws are made to be broken. With respect, that’s lame. Laws are not made to be broken, they’re made to be followed, upheld, respected. The C.C.C. teaches: “There are different expressions of the moral law…: eternal law, revealed law, and civil and ecclesiastical laws or church law.” (1952)
So eternal law is the truth that God has created order and laws to govern it. You know, gravity, earthquakes, weather patterns, night and day; goodness, truth, and love. In today’s Gospel God gives Moses the Commandments, and that’s the first stage of revealed law, which of course finds its fullest expression in Jesus and the New Law.
From natural law to traffic laws we move from quite general to very specific. Right from wrong is written on the human heart, but because of sin, we often think wrongly about what to do in particular situations because our conscience is all out of whack because of the crazies in the world and morally bankrupt leadership. The revealed law is God’s gift that helps us form our conscience and calibrate our moral compass. And people with a good, working conscience assume offices that demand they either create laws or uphold laws–these are our politicians, governors, mayors, school officials, and parents who govern their homes. This is what we call civil law. The laws that govern our society.
So, why does all this matter? Because God came to earth and started flipping tables over in the temple! Human greed transformed God’s holy temple into a marketplace of thieves! The Jews had the Natural Law and they had the Law of Moses–so how did they still end up on the receiving end of Jesus’ wrath? The answer is quite simple, really, human sin. Sin seeps into our laws and pollutes our society. It spoils us, it turns us, and we begin to justify immoral conduct.
People desire freedom from God instead of freedom for God. They desire freedom without responsibility; power without discipline. We want stuff, more than we want God. We are selfish instead of self-less. Greed and selfishness stands opposed to love of God and neighbor. And so, in every generation, human law must be purified. We must do the hard work of looking at the rules that govern our own conduct in the light of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Do I lie for good reason? Do I cheat if no one is watching? Do I steal because it’s for a good cause? What example am I giving with regard to rules and conduct for my children or grandchildren? Do I say one thing but do another?
And then more broadly, we are called to take our well-formed conscience and moral lifestyle into the public sphere–outside the home. Our schools need people of good will–moral people–in classrooms, leading schools, and running for the school board. Our community needs moral people dedicated not to power and wealth, but to the common good.
It is the primary function of the laity to bring truth, life, and goodness to our town. We are the light that shines in the darkness because our Lord’s light shines through us and illuminates every area of society that we touch.
Our world today needs Christians more than ever. Christians who post positive messages on social media, have positive bumper stickers, and who pass good laws–made to be followed, not broken. We need not be afraid to turn over some tables, to drive out those who are despoiling our Father’s house, and to set the ship right again. We need to be courageous. We need to be conscientious. We need to be Christian.