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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 22nd Sunday B – 29th August 2021

22nd Sunday B

29th August 2021

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

“No one is above the law”

My friends,

No one is above the law. It applies to all without exception. We know from experience that this is true in theory but not in fact because it is so common for people especially people of means to seek to by-pass or evade the demands of the law of the land. Law in that sense is a kind of defence/bulwark between us and total chaos. That is why stable, honest government is so important, as are police, the judiciary and inspectorates of various kinds of society. Law in this sense is imposed and if not observed it comes with sanctions and punishments.

That is very different from the sense of law that we experience in the readings to-day and how we need to understand the law of God in terms of our spiritual life and our experience of daily living. Civil Law, the law of the land is external from outside, the spiritual law of God is from within, written not on paper but on our hearts. This is the key to understanding the demands of the Christian life and why people embrace them willingly as the path to inner freedom and serenity.

Saying that, we must also realise that in the church the law of God was often poorly taught and understood so much that many have chosen to walk away because of its harsh and unreasonable demands. There is also the fact that many customs and traditions built up over the decades that took on importance and meaning that was inappropriate. Often this led to an approach by teachers and priests that drove people away from discovering the riches of our faith in the law of God.

Law in the spiritual sense rather than the civil sense was understood as a guide, a source of wisdom as a path to be followed which would lead to peace and strength (hope). You will notice this often in the Psalms – where God’s law is cherished as a source of joy and delight for those who write it on their hearts. As Christians we can celebrate the freedom of the children of God. That is a very different kind of freedom that belongs and is so much to the fore in Western culture.

That freedom is marked by the desire to do what I wish, think what I wish even at the risk of offending and hurting others. Rights vs Responsibility.

This is what is at stake in the ongoing campaigns ‘round assisted suicide, erosion or removal of religious education from curricula, not to speak of the battles ‘round sexual identity. The underlying question is on what values do we ground our morality? Too often we have been manipulated by campaigns that have played with emotions to win support for outcomes that are no longer crimes but remain immoral. So much that, that which is legal is moral.

The law of God is precious as guide and inspiration to draw out from the human spirit all its finest qualities of truth, integrity, compassion and mercy.

It is difficult for new generations who are bombarded by voices contrary to the spirit and voice of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel. Yet rest assured that those who seek to listen to that voice and take it to heart personally and among family and friends it truly does bear fruit in plenty – no less than the olive tree that blossoms in rocky soil.

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