Parents of young children need to set them firm but simple rules. For example, a toddler doesn’t need a long lecture, or a PowerPoint presentation, about why not to touch a hot oven or poke his finger into the power socket. He just needs to be told not to touch it. Only as he matures does he come to understand that his parents set boundaries because they love him and they want him to be safe. And that understanding helps draw him closer to his parents, making him want to take on their values and goals in life.
In a similar way, Our Lord says that our obedience to him will help us share in his life and fill us with great joy. As the sin that blocks our relationship with God is removed, we begin to experience God’s love in greater depth. Keeping the Commandments is not meant to be a matter of just gritting our teeth and getting on with it; rather it’s a tool for deepening our relationship with God and being drawn more deeply into his life.
The apostles were beginning to understand this when they dealt with the question of Gentile converts. They didn’t want to burden these new believers with a yoke that they themselves couldn’t bear. Rather, the apostles wanted them to get to the heart of Our Lord’s commandments—the love of God and neighbour—and then to discover what Our Lord was calling them to do.
Just think about how the saints stayed focused on Jesus. They obeyed the commandments, not because they were a burdensome mandate, but because they didn’t want anything to get in the way of their relationship with God. Think too, about the pope and the bishops. They don’t encourage us to preach and teach just because Our Lord ordered us to. They do it because they want to see more and more people come to love Jesus and serve him with their lives.
The Commandments, Canon Law, the Constitutions of the Order, the discipline of the Church; these are not meant to be a burden. They exist to guide us in our lives so that we can draw closer to God and his love.