The Law of Love

The second in our series of reflections on the Advent Antiphons for December 18th takes us deep into the heart of God. It must be love.

‘O Ruler of the House of Israel, who gave the law to Moses on Sinai, come and save us with outstretched arm.’

Imagine a world in which any or all of us could do what we wanted, whenever we wanted with no regard for others.  What kind of world would that create?  How much chaos would there be?

Every community, each society, no matter how new and how different, will soon start to agree upon a common way of living, a bond of behaviour, a pact of what’s expected from its members.  Whether we call them ‘rules’ or ‘laws’ or ‘standards of behaviour’, the system is the same.  We need boundaries.  We need to know what is acceptable and what is not.

Some laws, of course, may be unpopular with some.  And there are often laws which may be outdated, eventually challenged and changed to undo injustice and create a more fair society, as we grow and develop and change.

There are different ways of ruling, too, and some rulers have, we know, taken their power to devastating results, destroying lives, demeaning what it means to be human.  There are still so many people in the world today who cannot flourish because of evil regimes and totalitarian rule.

Freedom as the children of God doesn’t mean that God, as Father, wants us to run amok and live aimlessly and selfishly.  That’s not freedom at all.

The most loving parent, at times, will in some particular way, correct or discipline a child for their own safety and well-being.  They may shout at them as they try to cross the road in front of oncoming traffic, give them a glaring look if their cheek gets the better of them, or make them do things against their will because they know what is right for their child.  After all, who wouldn’t send their child to school just because a child preferred to stay at home watching TV, or allowed them not to clean their teeth simply because they couldn’t be bothered.

Moses’ first attempt to deliver the law which God gave him on Mount Sinai met with frustration and disappointment, and anger too.  The stones inscribed with the law of God were smashed against the graven image the people had made in their impatience, as they looked aimlessly for other more self-indulgent ways of living.

When Jesus comes, he does not do away with the law given to Moses.  There is no smashed stone, no fragmented law, no hiding what has gone before.  In fact, he sums up the law of God succinctly and beautifully, simply in the need to love God and love our neighbour.

One of the few commands Jesus gave, a mandatum, was simply to love.  On the night before his death, he stoops to his disciples’ feet to wash them, and tells them to follow his example of love and service.

When it is stripped back, the Christian faith is not a complicated set of rules and laws to hinder and take away our freedom.  Christ rules with the law of love, his Kingdom is one with love at its heart.

His outstretched arm is not one which comes with a slap or a fist.  The hand he stretches out to us is a hand which bears the mark of pain and sacrifice, the wounds of love. 

His outstretched arm is not one which comes with a slap or a fist.  The hand he stretches out to us is a hand which bears the mark of pain and sacrifice, the wounds of love.  He rules with compassion and love, a love which transforms and changes us.  Do we believe this? Can it really be true?

‘O Ruler of the House of Israel, who gave the law to Moses on Sinai, come and save us with outstretched arm.’

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