Sunday, September 03, 2006


Today at Mass, Father's homily really made me think.

That is a good thing, and really not SO unusual!

He was discussing liturgy and the rules. He mentioned scrupulosity, that sin of seeing sin where none exists. Made me a little nervous.

I will readily admit to finding great comfort in rules. They give our lives structure and a certain level of predictability.

I have been called pharisaic, that is; like a Pharisee.

The Pharisees were a sect in Judaism who took great interest in the many laws that existed for the Jewish people. Jesus took them to task. This can be a troublesome text for people like me, until some light is shed on it.
The Pharisees were very caught up in the letter of the Law. By losing sight of the reasons behind the law, the 'spirit' of it, they became incapable of the love that is necessary for the just functioning of a society.

Scripture tells us that we are to love the law. We are to love the Lord's precepts (another word for rules). Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.

God gave us His Church so that we would not be without leadership when Jesus ascended to heaven. The Church is the Body of Christ. We are a part of the Body of Christ. The Church (the Body of Christ) gives us rules. As we love the Body of Christ, we are to love the Church and love the rules. Oh, did I mention that Jesus Christ IS God in the form of the Son?

Part of the problem is that people present the discussion as if it's an either/or thing. You either love OR you follow the rules. This is certainly not the case.

As confirmed adult Catholics, we are REQUIRED to admonish the sinner. That is one of the Spiritual works of mercy. We can't admonish the sinner if we don't know right from rules.

Father's homily was referring mostly to liturgy. Liturgy has rules. It's very easy to dismiss the rules as bureaucratic, hierarchical, outdated, outmoded, irrelevant. Who's to know? Does God really care if we follow the rules the Church gives us for liturgy? Will the people know any different?

I think of the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of Matthew where we hear "Well done good and faithful servant. You have shown you can be trusted in small things. You will be trusted with greater things."

Following faithfully the directions on the timing of, say, the Communion song seems to many people like a very small thing indeed. But there are reasons behind it. We should be faithful to that small thing.

But if the song starts three seconds late, or even early, do I bite off the head of the music leader? Of course not. If she truly does not know, at some point direction will need to be given. If she gets it right 14 weeks out of 15? Ignore it. She knows how it's supposed to work.

If I know that someone is falling into grave sin, do I let it go? Well, if I am certain the person knows better, it is entirely possible that my pointing out a sin would be no help. It might even make matters worse.

If the person is ignorant of the sinfulness of his action, the loving thing IS to point out the sin. How loving is it to have a person persist in sinfulness that may endanger his soul?

I've known people in positions of authority and guidance who ignore blatant sin, because, well, the sinner is so wonders if that might be a temporary condition. And what of the soul of the person who did not admonish the sinner?

We are not in a time and place that much likes being told what to do. I think we have lost sight of how rules help us function more smoothly as a society.

I also think that in the Church, of all places, where we are called NOT to conform to the patterns of the world, would be a place where rules would be respected.