Thursday, January 7, 2016

Memorial of Saint Raymond of Peñafort, priest

(I John 4:19-5:4; Luke 4:14-22a)

When Jesus stands up in the synagogue of Nazareth to give what has been called his inaugural sermon, he seems like a starry-eyed charismatic.  He makes no reference to the Law by which the Jews lived.  Rather he emphasizes the Spirit that has come upon him to various oppressed groups.  But before one takes up the banner of Jesus as a free spirit, some consideration of the value of law should be made.

As much as law is sometimes dismissed as restricting people’s freedom, it more regularly protects it.  Only the powerful would enjoy freedom of speech if there were no law protecting one’s right to air her opinion in public.  Similarly, unless there were laws directing traffic, going to work in the morning would be a peril.  We can truthfully say that Jesus did not mean to abolish laws but to assure that the poor be included in their reach.

Today the Church celebrates the patron of lawyers, especially canon lawyers, St. Raymond of Peñafort.  Raymond systemized previous papal decrees into a body of law that served the Church from the thirteenth to the twentieth century.  A Dominican priest who served as Master General of the Order, Raymond also revised the Order’s constitution which also withstood the vagaries of time.  Raymond of Peñafort died on this date in 1275, the hundredth year of his life.