Years ago, I had a conversation with a Protestant friend who was convinced that Our Lord came into this world wielding a huge India rubber, and that when he redeemed us, he simply wiped out all the regulations of the Old Testament.
But just because Our Lord accused some of the Pharisees of being too legalistic, we shouldn’t think that his approach to the Law of Moses was the exact opposite of theirs. On the contrary, Our Lord told us that he came to uphold the Law, and he said that the least transgression against the Law makes us “least” in his kingdom.
Our Lord didn’t say these words to condemn us or discourage us. He said them to save us. Our Lord came to bring new life, but in order to experience that life, we need to follow his commandments. Like parents who are trying to keep their children out of trouble, Our Lord warns us to be vigilant against sin. He knows that giving in to temptation will make us anything but happy.
Our Lord knows exactly what we are going through, and we know that he is with us in our struggles. He doesn’t just issue warnings from afar; but helps us to root out sin wherever it shows up. By examining our consciences at the end of each day, we can ensure that sin doesn’t gain a foothold in our hearts. At Compline, as we look back on our day, we ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we may have strayed from God’s truth. Then, as we bring our failings into the light of God’s love, we experience his mercy, and we can get a clearer sense of how we can do better tomorrow.
It has been said that if we want to move mountains, we must start by carrying away small stones, and that’s certainly true with sin. If we keep fighting the daily battles against little temptations, asking for God’s help every time we’re tested, we will soon start to make progress. If we give every area of our lives over to him—even those hidden, dark corners—he will give us all the grace we need to live according to his will, and perhaps even to be counted among the “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven.