Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
DT 4:1, 5-9/MT 5:17-19
In today’s readings from Holy Scripture, the Lord, through Moses, gives the people of Israel His “whole law,” which comes to fruition through the person of Jesus Christ. The Lord gives the Israelites His Law that they may live and enter in and take possession of the land He has promised.
The law student in me can’t help but wonder: How do we access this Law? What is this substance of this Law? What hinders us from knowing this Law? And finally, what results from obeying this Law?
Christians throughout time—from St. Thomas Aquinas to Pope Benedict XVI and beyond, have described this primary source of law as lex naturalis, the natural moral law—the ethical message contained in our being. The Apostle Paul refers to the law written on the heart of man, which is accessible to us through reason (Rom. 2:14-15). In his Treatise on Law, St. Thomas Aquinas describes the natural law as the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law.
The first and general principle of the natural law is to do good and to avoid evil. From this first precept, other particular principles, governing the rights and duties of each person, flow. Some particular principles include the principle of respect for human life, the duty to seek truth, promotion of true freedom, and demands of justice and solidarity.
In an address to the International Congress on Natural Moral Law in 2007, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, describes today’s state of affairs—the term “natural law” is almost incomprehensible because our modern concept of human nature is no longer metaphysical, but merely empirical. When we lose sight of our dyadic nature of body and soul, the moral message written on our hearts becomes disoriented and our moral lives become precarious and uncertain. Benedict XVI reminds us that knowledge of the natural law indeed increases with the progress of the moral conscience.
So, today, brothers and sisters, let us continue to use this Lenten season to draw us closer to our own hearts and progress in the formation of our moral consciences. If we learn and obey the Law the Lord has graciously written on our hearts, then, like the Israelites, we shall live and enter into the land the Lord has promised to us.
Anna Marie Landis
Graduate Student, UST School of Law