True Freedom and Dignity is Found Only in Obeying God
Wednesday March 17, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Lent
Reading (Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:17-19)
When Our Lord tells us that He has come to fulfill the law and the prophets rather than to abolish them, we look back at the first reading when Moses had been given the law by God and now was presenting the law to the people of Israel, and he says, “What other nation has laws and decrees that are as just as the ones that I am placing before you today?” They are just and they are holy because they are of God.
Now there were two different kinds of laws: There were ceremonial laws and there were moral laws. The ceremonial laws have been abolished by Our Lord, and the reason for that is they had to with the disobedience of the people. It had to do with their ritual purity and the manner in which they were to come before the Lord for worship. We certainly have our own, as the Church is very clear with regard to making sure that we get to confession and that our souls are in the state of grace before we receive Holy Communion; but when it comes to the moral laws, all of those remain in effect to this day and forever.
And the reason why they are just and holy is because, not only do they conform perfectly to the Will of God, but within each one of us, God has written these laws in our hearts and in our minds. They are part of what is called the natural law. It is precisely that which God has promised that He would put within each person. So these are things that are not unknown to anyone. When one sees them, one can see immediately that they are correct; that they conform to what is proper, to what is just, and to what is truly best for the human person.
Now we know, even by looking just at the Ten Commandments, that these are indeed correct, true, and just. But we also know that they are not always what our bodies like to say are true and correct and just. We like to break them, or at least we are tempted to do so because of our human weakness. And so it is in this way that we begin to see, with sin abounding in the world today, that it is not because people do not know what is right and wrong, but rather it is because they are making a free choice to do what is wrong. With regard to this, Our Lord says that anyone who breaks these laws and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. The reason is because to violate the law of God goes directly against our nature, and therefore it goes directly against the very purpose of our creation and it violates our dignity as human persons. And because when we violate the moral law we violate God, ourselves, and most often another human person made in the image and likeness of God, therefore we are violating everything in the order of creation, which is why such a person will be called the least – because it goes against God Himself, it goes against the love of God and love of neighbor, and it violates one’s own dignity.
What God wants for us is to make sure that we are growing in holiness. Part of the way that we grow in holiness is to accept the truth and to live it, as well as of course to pray and live a virtuous life and so on. So what we need to do is simply look within our own selves to be able to find that law which God has written within. We can find it in the pages of Scripture, we can find it in the teachings of the Church, but as Moses makes very clear to the people: “This is not too far away that you will be unable to understand; it is not up in the sky where you will have to ask, ‘Who will go up and get it?’; it is not across the sea where you will wonder, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for me?’; it is already in your hearts and in your minds.” All you need to do is go within and you will find there the law of God written within. And if you are in the state of grace, there you will also find God, Who has written the law within you. It is when we can accept these truths and live them that we will be able to find true freedom for our souls because we will find the truth of who we were created to be and the way that we were created to live. Then we will live in the fullness of the truth and teach others to do so as well and be counted among those who are considered the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.