Lesson 18   Law and the Ten Commandments


(inspiring orchestral music) Many folks have a negative
association with law. We like to be free and
unencumbered by rules and regulations. Oftentimes, we look at
the dictates of laws as somehow invasive or arbitrary. We see them as limiting our free enjoyment of the goods of the earth. This exasperation is even more pronounced when it comes to the Church’s law. Whenever the Church speaks
to the dignity of human life or God’s plan for human sexuality, or the truth about marriage, she is often painted as
outdated, as constricting, as against human freedom. But here’s the thing, we need rules. Try to imagine your favorite game. And then try to imagine
it played without rules. Take football, remove the referees, remove the rule books, remove everything pertaining to safety, the boundaries. Take it all away. And then try to picture
what a game of football would look like. It’d be chaos. For you see, we are inclined to the good, but after the fall, we
find it very difficult to sort out what that
means and to achieve it. Law is an ordination, that
is to say an ordering, or ordinance, or determination of reason. It’s made for the common
good and it’s promulgated, that is to say it’s made
known by one who has care of the community. What law does, is it makes
known to us what is good, and encourages us to pursue it. Now, we can distinguish
different kinds of law at work in the world, and in our lives. Let’s begin by considering
the eternal law. Picture an artist. Before he paints, he has a sense of the goal. He has a sense of the completed image. Now picture God. Before he paints the
masterpiece of his creation and redemption, he has a
notion of how he intends to draw all things to himself. That notion, we refer
to as the eternal law. It’s how God orchestrates
all things to his glory. Now, that eternal law actually
registers in our lives in a particular way. This we call natural law. So different creatures
participate in the eternal law in a variety of ways. We, men and women, have this
law written within our hearts. We actually experience it
through the inclinations of our bodily and spiritual lives. So because we are set
apart from the beasts by our intellect and will, that is what is most distinctly human, this is where we find it especially. And what constitutes the image of God at work within us. And so the natural law
is a kind of impress of the eternal law at work
in our rational nature. It’s worked out through
the deliberation of men throughout history. We can come to clarify it
and better understand it, and so legislate it. One place we see this, is in the general cross cultural agreement
regarding morality over the course of generations,
in a variety of places. Most people come to a similar appreciation of what is good and what is bad. The Ten Commandments are part of that law which is sewn within our hearts. But as we’ll see later, God reveals them to us in a special way for the sake of our own good. Human law is just the concrete application or extension of the
natural law in a particular time and place. So for instance, in the United States, we drive on the right side of the road. Now, is this part of the natural law? Is this something written in the stars from all eternity, that
wherever vehicles are conducted, they need observe this thing? No. And we know that from the fact
that in plenty of countries, it’s perfectly legitimate, indeed legal, to drive on the left side of the road. But it is within the lawmaker’s authority to govern on such things
for public safety. Men extend the natural law
in order to accommodate all of the particular circumstances
of a time and a place. Now, what then is divine law? Divine law refers to the
MosaicLaw of the Old Testament and then to the new law of
grace of the New Testament. The Mosaic Law are just
those precepts given to Israel to safeguard
their life and worship. So we encounter these
lengthy codes in Exodus and Leviticus, and in
Deuteronomy, and what they do is they legislate moral precepts,
and ceremonial precepts, and judicial precepts. They govern the life
of the people of Israel for right order. Now, some of those precepts are universal, that is to say they pertain
to all times and places. But some of them just pertain to Israel, at this time and in this place. So they’re kind of limited in scope. We also wanna say, that the
old law, the Mosaic Law, is pedagogical. That is to say that it is
leading to the fullness of Jesus Christ. Now the old law did not justify. It did not yet make men good. But in the new law, in Jesus Christ, which is the very grace
of the Holy Spirit, poured into our hearts, we have a law that truly justifies. One, that actually makes men good. The new law is the perfect
fulfillment of the old law. The Lord himself has said that
not one iota of the old law will pass away. He is come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, to perfect it. Now, he does set aside what
was peculiar to the time and place of Israel that came before. And he inaugurates a truly
perfect and universal law of love. One that embraces the whole of life, which legislates not
only on exterior actions, but on interior
motivations, and intentions. One that goes from the tops of our heads, to the soles of our feet. And in so doing, he gives
us everything we need to love him and our neighbor. And so to fulfill the law. We pause just briefly to
consider the Ten Commandments. Here we have an especially
privileged communication of God’s love to his people Israel. We said that we can discover
the Ten Commandments by the natural law, it’s actually
written within our hearts. But because it is so
important, the Lord clarified those things so that we
would never need to question whether or not they were true. The Ten Commandments are
divided into two tables. That is to say, two groupings. The first three Commandments
concern our relation to God. And the final seven concern
our relation to other men. The Ten Commandments are also a good guide for identifying big sins in our life. That is to say, mortal sins. Mortal sins like missing
Mass, for instance, kill the life of grace within. They actually kill charity. They’re deadly, they’re lethal. We distinguish them from venial sins. Now venial sins don’t
kill the life of grace, they just impede it. So if we were to liken the spiritual life to a car trip, for instance, mortal sins would be
like getting in a wreck, where as venial sins would be
like taking the wrong exit, which detains us unnecessarily. So, we use these Ten
Commandments as a helpful tool for making fruitful use of
the Sacrament of Confession, to identify what keeps us
from all the fullness of God. So that we can present that to the Lord and receive his healing love. So, as we take time to consider law, we find that it’s not a
drag or an imposition, it’s actually saving. The law makes us virtuous. And it helps us to secure the common good. Please God, it will lead
us all the way to heaven.




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