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The law of love

Twenty-third Sunday of the Year

Ezekiel 33: 7-9; 
Romans 13: 8-10; 
Matthew 18: 15-20


The title, Religious and Moral Education Curriculum for Catholic Schools, sounds extremely formal. Perhaps you wouldn’t consider it for bedtime reading. But it is a fascinating document that can help us to appreciate the great effort which is being made in Catholic schools in various parts of the world.

The document even describes a kind of student who might not show up on the economic graphs. It refers to them as being a “morally-disadvantaged student.” The student may be rich or poor. It doesn’t matter. 

But the morally-disadvantaged student exists. We should not pity, reject or chastise such a student. That leads to conflict. But in a Catholic way of life, we do have something to offer.

In today’s reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans, he offers us a way of reaching a student who is morally disadvantaged. It is also useful for the students who are simply finding their way and gradually growing in their moral lives. This way is a move away from law towards love.

You will meet many people, including adults, whose moral life is shaped by law. When they were young, their parents probably told them, “Do this! Don’t do that!” Maybe they obeyed, maybe not, but they are still bound by law.

They have never grown up. At work, they follow the rules or (if they think they can get away with it) they break the rules. Fear of punishment is really the only moral rule which they have. This is definitely not the mature Catholic way.

If you wish, check the website of the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC). Like the Catholic Church, the ICAC is also interested in moral education. 

The ICAC puts a lot of effort into moral education, even in schools. But it does not have the wonderful resource of Catholic teaching and tends to operate at the level of rules and laws.

A much more mature level is the level of love. Here we find the reasons for the rules. Here we are guided by the love of God and love of neighbour to know what to do, and why to do it.

Once we move to the law of love, we understand that we have something special to offer to those who are morally disadvantaged. But we cannot force it. 

We can only be persuaded through modelling the values in our own lives. And even those among us who mostly manage to live according to love know that there are times when we fall back to needing the rules to guide us.

All the good rules are summed up in the one commandment, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” 

When we are in a new situation, where there are no rules, we can simply draw on our experience of the law of love.

The Religious and Moral Education Curriculum Document also helps us to appreciate that the law of love may be reflected in other traditions, such as Confucianism or Buddhism, which are important for people in Hong Kong. 

We do not walk alone, but can share some common steps on the journey with our good neighbours.

Our Catholic community can take pride in the efforts of our Catholic schools to build quality religious and moral education for our children.
We also know that our schools cannot work alone, but must be supported by the moral teaching and example of parents and the whole community.

At the heart of all our teaching is a simple command, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

● RO’B