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Why pleasing God is not about adhering to rules

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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 09/03/22

What Jesus rejects is conflating the Law with what the Law aims for.

Today’s readings can be found here.

“Why do you do what is not allowed to do on the Sabbath?”

In all honesty, the Pharisees were not always wrong. And still, Jesus disputes them. Here, what he rejects is conflating the Law with what the Law aims for. One can take on certain customs without understanding what those customs point at. We oftentimes follow certain habits without knowing their true meaning.

For example, if my Christian faith asks me to live my sentimental life in a certain way, I won’t be a good Christian just because I respect that request. What makes me a good Christian is understanding where that rule points, and where it takes me.

If young people nowadays reject the very idea of chastity, this does not mean that they are degenerates. It only means that no one has spent time explaining to them the meaning of it, and what this choice aims at. 

Many of us still think that adhering to some rules pleases God. This is sheer paganism. Faith brings about freedom and liberation, and not neurosis or anguish.

When Jesus says that “the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath,” he is not inviting us to transgress anything. He is just reminding us that a rule is not an end in itself, but only a path towards freedom.

Only in this way one accepts a rule, a deprivation, a “no.” We accept them because we understand their true meaning, and what they entail.

Jesus challenges the Pharisees not to question the Law, but only its blind implementation.


Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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