Today’s readings represent one of my greatest internal battles living the Faith (and I suspect I am not alone in this)—my obsession with the law. It’s oh so adorably human to believe that man was made for the law, and not the law for man. What do I mean when I say this? I mean that we tend to unnecessarily place ourselves in bondage to the law of God, as though we were created to serve it: but in reality, man was created before the law was given, so we can easily deduce that the law was created as a servant to man—it was a means to the end for which man was made. It was given so that, in observing the law, we might know the love of God and learn to love our neighbor as we would love ourselves. It was not given so that we would nitpick and obsess over the details and the minutiae—we were never meant to be enslaved to the letter of the law.
The Catechism says this:
2173 The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day. He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing. The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God. “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, and also the law. But when Christ came, He did not abolish the law, but fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17)—and in coming and giving His life, He showed that the law can be fulfilled in one command—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) Christ displayed this love on His Cross—He laid down His own life that we might live.
It never fails to amaze me that, no matter how many places in Scripture I read that receiving the love of God and showing that love to my neighbor is all that is required of me, and that God gives me the grace I need to achieve those ends, I still find myself tripping up royally on my own legalism. When I slip into legalism, I not only judge myself by its impossible standards, but I judge my neighbor by those standards as well—and then I am farther than ever from the love of neighbor that Christ gives!
‘Taking up our cross’ might have a little more to do with love of neighbor and a little less like playing the martyr. Putting our selfishness to death is our call. Christ fulfilled it on the cross, and now it is where we are led. It’s simple, but it’s excruciatingly difficult . . . and God’s grace is sufficient. Christ came to liberate us from bondage—not only to sin, but also to the law.
We won’t take up our crosses perfectly, but that’s all right. Let’s not overcomplicate this beautiful death by our obsession with correctness, but rather engage in Love with all our souls, as messy as it may be to do so.
How can we better serve the ones that God has placed near us, especially those who we don’t know how to love best?
Audrey Assad is a wife, mother, and musician. You can find out more about her here.