Lawyer jokes are a staple of American humor. But let’s fact it: we Catholics sometimes poke fun at our canon lawyers, who specialize in the Church’s Code of Canon Law. Today’s saint- Raymond of Penafort- was both a civil lawyer and a canon lawyer (He’s the patron saint of canon lawyers. And as a canon lawyer friend of mine insists, Saint Raymond proves that yes, canonists can go to heaven).
As a medieval Spanish scholar and Dominican, Saint Raymond was a lawyer’s lawyer. "He who hates the law," he insisted, "is without wisdom and is tossed about like a boat in a storm." Now, the non-lawyers among us might roll our eyes, and all of us can be tempted a times to think that laws are somehow just not consistent with the spirit of the gospel. But today’s first reading assures us that this is not the case, as it stresses the absolute necessity for us, as disciples, to follow the commandments of our Lord.
We can infer, then, that in the Church laws do have their place and their purpose- not least for our salvation! And at the end of the days, that’s what our laws are all about. As the very last line in the Code of Canon Law states: "the salvation of souls is the supreme law off the Church."
Saint Raymond invites us today to respect the laws to which he was so dedicates- and perhaps cut his fellow canon lawyers a break as well.