Saturday, September 3, 2011

"love is the fulfillment of the law"

This Sunday we continue reading through the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. He exhorts us to "[o]we nothing to anyone, except to love one another." The one who loves the other, according to Paul, "has fulfilled the law." Beyond these general exhortations, the apostle goes on to remind his readers and listeners of the commandments: "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet," as well as "whatever other commandment there may be." Like Jesus, Paul insists that all the commandments are summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

For some reason, this reading leads me to consider the necessary connection between orthodoxy and orthopraxis. In our times, as in other eras of the Church's earthly history, we tend to privilege orthopraxy over orthodoxy. People in the U.S., being nothing if not pragmatic, do this to an even greater extent than people elsewhere. Such an approach reveals our inherent tendency towards Semi-Pelagianism. Indeed, to discuss orthodoxy and orthopraxis is, to a very large extent, to deal, yet again, with the issue of faith and works.

While I could write much more on this subject, I will limit myself merely to observing that Paul is correct in his simple assertion that love is what turns orthodoxy into orthopraxis, which is what makes love, that is, agapé, the key to being a Christian. This is why, as Heather King explains (link to her video), St. Thérèse of Lisieux said her vocation was to love. I never tire of reminding my sisters and brothers in Lord, as well as myself, that there is only one vocation: to follow Christ, which is nothing other than a call to love. Let's not distort our call by reducing it to mere sentiment, another tendency we easily fall into. While it is the fulfillment of the law, loving another is often hard work and there are usually many obstacles to overcome, chiefly myself and the other person. So, we can love only because we are first lov-ed.


  1. Okay. I am googling away and trying to understand what you are saying about orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy(a word I just heard today) It would help so much if you could provide a concrete example that demonstrates teh difference.

    I loved today's readings at Mass!

  2. Orthodoxy= right, or correct, belief
    Orthopraxis- right, or correct, practice

    Hence, this is why it is a version of the old faith vs. works cannard. What leads right belief to right practice is love. Right practice can also result in right belief through love, oriented as it is to the One who is love. It's all about the words. We can believe the right thing and not do the right thing. Conversely, we can do the right thing for reasons other than love.

    I linked to Heather's video and pointed to the Little Flower as a concrete example. I hope that helps. Another concrete example of how love conjoins orthodoxy and orthopraxis is Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (a.k.a. Mother Teresa). I'm not much of one for wrapping things up with a neat little story,

  3. Concrete example: A Catholic who is homosexual, who is okay with who s/he is AND who lives according to the Church's teachings out of love for Christ, others, and him/herself. That is love connecting orthodoxy to orthopraxis, one of many concrete examples I could point to.

  4. What's ayapin [that illustration] mean?

  5. It's agapé spelled in Greek letters.


God's love for us is tireless

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