St Paul tells us today “For the letter brings death but the Spirit gives life.” We all have heard of the letter and the spirit of the law. The Spirit of the law is not opposed to the letter of the law, but rather presuppose it. Pope Francis says it this way “The purpose of the law is to bring us to Christ. If the law is not bringing us to Christ it ought to be done away with.”
St Thomas Aquinas in commenting on this verse from Paul letter to the Corinthians writes, “The letter of the law brings death because it only tells you what you need to do. It does not give us the ability to fulfill the law.” St Thomas even says the new commandment to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength ultimately brings death without the Holy Spirit enabling you to live this new commandment of love. It is not enough to be told what to do. We need the energy, life to live it.
This brings me to Ned Flanders and the letter of the law. What makes Ned Flanders so funny is that he goes to his pastor with questions about everything.
Here is how we are like Ned Flanders in our Catholic Faith.
Come up to the priest ‘Father I ate a blue berry 59 minutes 38 seconds before communion can I receive communion?
Father my grandmother was dying and I stayed at the hospital which means that I didn’t go to mass on Sunday. Did I commit a mortal sin?
Father I think I only prayed 49 Hail Mary in the rosary. Do I need to pray the rosary again to make sure that I prayed a full rosary?
Father I was praying a nine day novena and I missed a day by mistake. Can I just pray the prayer twice to cover for day that I missed?
Father I know that Sunday is a day of rest but I needed to buy paper towels? Did I break the Sabbath rest?
Father I came to mass after the first reading. Did I fulfill my Sunday obligation?
During confession priest gives the person this penance. Now I want you to be nice to your sister. Response from the person. How long do I need to be nice to my sister?
During confession priest gives the person this penance. Sit and spend some time in quiet prayer asking Jesus into your heart. Response from person. How long do I need to sit in quiet father? Is 5 Minutes enough?
It took me only 5 minutes to write these down. I will leave it to you to figure out how I could quote these examples so quickly.