By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE are reminded of our laws’ constant need for the proper spirit in that gospel episode where Christ was accused by the leader of a synagogue of violating the Sabbath law because he cured a woman of her crippled condition on a Sabbath. (cfr. Lk 13,10-17)
“There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day,” the synagogue leader said. But Christ immediately corrected him by saying, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?”
We obviously have to be governed by the rule of law. Without the law, we can only expect disorder and chaos, and all the forms of injustice. But we need to distinguish between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and know how to understand and apply the law properly.
Ideally, both the letter and the spirit of a certain law should be in perfect harmony. But that is hardly the case in real life. The problem, of course, is that the articulation of the law is conditioned and limited by our human powers that cannot fully capture the richness of human life, considering its spiritual and supernatural character that will always involve the intangibles and mysteries and the like.
That is the reason why we can go beyond but not against a particular law, when such law cannot fully express the concrete conditions of a particular case.
But, first of all, we have to understand that all our laws should be based on what is known as the natural law that in the end is a participation in the divine eternal law of God, our Creator and the first and ultimate lawgiver. And that part of natural law that is specific to man is called the natural moral law that would recognize, as its first principle, God as our Creator and source and end of all laws.
A legal system not clearly based on this fundamental principle about laws would already be a system that is defective ab initio. A legal system that is based only on some human consensus would put the spirit of the law in full subservience to the letter of that law.
That’s why any human law should always be a dynamic one, always in the process of refining, polishing and enriching itself. It should never be considered as static, irreformable, or unenrichable.
That’s simply because charity, truth, justice, and mercy, which our laws should embody, have aspects that can be mysterious and that will always demand new requirements from us.
Let’s hope that the proper structures are made available to address this ongoing need with respect to continually polishing our laws. The task is definitely daunting. But rather than be daunted, it should challenge us to do it whatever it costs. We actually have the means. God, for his part, will always give us the grace for it. We just have to have the necessary attitude, will, and skills to do it.
We have to understand that for this task to be properly undertaken, those involved should be vitally in contact with God, the source of all good things, of all truth, charity, and justice. Being the creator, he is the foundation of reality and the supreme lawmaker and lawgiver.