No to Egocentrism
I was part of a panel interviewing candidates for a position in the school. Commenting on a candidate’s response, one of the panel members said, “her faith is old, whereas mine is modern”. Are there two types of faith – old and new?
Jesus broke many of the purity laws of the Jews. This made many question whether he is obedient to the Mosaic Laws, which were considered divine. Jesus’ response was “‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them”. But that does not mean that the laws cannot be reinterpreted. It is important to touch the soul and spirit of the laws. It is important to reinterpret the religious laws according to the changes in the history and culture. Therefore, Jesus said, “You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court.” Avoiding the evil of killing results in nothing more than self-preservation. Jesus demanded that his disciples employ the Mosaic Law to the welfare and goodness of others. Trying not to hate is much more noble and useful than just observing the Law for its own sake. The same is true of adultery. An adulterous person is egocentric, whereas someone who understands the Law of Moses would practise respect for others. Jesus accused Pharisees and Scribes that they interpreted the Law of Moses as a means for self-preservation. Such egocentric attitudes are not good. “Jesus said to his disciples: I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” This teaching was part of the Sermon on the Mount whereby the disciples were trained to be effective missionaries.
Jesus broke the purity laws of the Jews which were interpretations of the Mosaic Law and they needed to be amended. The basic love-laws of Moses are to be observed. Who can legitimately reinterpret the Laws? Jesus was not calling for anarchy. He had the divine mandate to reinterpret the Laws. For us, it is the Church that stands in the place of Jesus and interprets the divine laws. The encyclicals of the popes are examples of they exercising their duty of interpreting the divine laws according to the cultural and political changes in the world. All these teachings direct the faithful to be other-centred, not self-centred. As faithful missionaries of the Word, let us say ‘no to egocentrism’.