Monday, December 29, 2008 – Deuteronomy – Laws
For the next few weeks in our Why Catholic? discussion groups, we are studying and reflecting upon the Ten Commandments, those original brief but encompassing words of Yahweh to Moses. Today I opened the Bible to Deuteronomy and read through Chapters 22 to 24 . . . marveling as I read at the complexity of these additional Laws written out by Moses to keep the people from straying into sin. The necessity of not allowing incestuous relationships for the propagation of the human species is evident. So too are the laws about the use of latrines and so on. In those days there was no zoning department or environmental agency to protect us from harming ourselves or others. These modern institutions have grown out of these hundreds of petite laws. We like to think that many of the regulations we find spelled out in this Book and in the Book of Leviticus that support the Ten Commandments are now seen as sensible and useful. We might also see that many do not apply in places where science and common sense oppose them. Yet all of these rules stem from one verse which I love and which any faithful Jew will intone from memory, it is called The Great Commandment, and it is found in Chapter 6 verses 4 and 5.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The writer continues, Take to heart the words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them on your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.
We have seen men who keep to the old, orthodox way and wear the pendant with the Law on their foreheads and perhaps we have wondered what makes some of us so openly zealous. We may even have wondered if our own zeal might reach such heights as to carry God about with us openly. Wearing a cross or medal, making the sign of the cross, praying before meals in a restaurant – these are all ways in which we speak at home and abroad. Calmly bringing the truth to light in a hostile atmosphere, gently rebuking one another for straying from the Law of Love, giving up a social outing when it interferes with a commitment we have made to Christ – these are other ways to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength. When we choose to bring our psyche, our emotions, our thoughts and our body to God . . . this is how we show our abiding love as a response to the call of love we have heard.
We are Israel; we are ‘the People who struggle with Yahweh’. We are the people whom Moses exhorts, threatens and corrects. We are the people for whom he lays out the law meticulously . . . having seen the golden calves we have fashioned in the intervals of his absence. Moses reminds us that we owe God our loyalty, obedience and love. Christ himself recites verses from this Book when he is tempted by Satan in the desert.
When we find ourselves in the barren stretches of life, we might return to the Law of Love and respond to the God who knows how much we struggle. We will want to come together with fellow travelers to recite the sacred words: We love you God, with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. If we do this constantly, faithfully, if we post this law on the doorpost of our hearts . . . we may find that we have little need for the endless little laws laid out in this Book . . . for we will be authentically living The Law of Love.