When you drive around in Sydney’s south-west, with all the road-works around, you are bombarded by an increasing array of signs – some permanent, some portable, some flashing and variable. Road signs can help you to know what the speed limit is, or if there is a sharp corner looming, or a change in the road conditions. Signs point to the road rules that underlie our experience of driving around, and the rules themselves are very helpful for ensuring that people are able to drive safely and efficiently from one place to another, without having an accident or causing injury or death to another person or property. Sometimes the signs can be very unhelpful. For example, I drove back from the city one night before Christmas along the M5, through the section where the motorway is being widened. Signs on the left-hand-side of the carriageway indicated that the speed limit due to the road works was 40km/h; but signs on the right-hand-side of the carriageway indicated that the speed limit was 80km/h. So, I guessed that since I was driving in the right lane, then I could go at 80km/h, but the ‘suckers’ in the left lane had to stay below 40. Well, that would have been my argument to a copper.
I also recently watched a documentary on the Woodstock music festival, which in many ways epitomised the spirit of the sexual revolution and the mantras of personal freedom to smoke or ingest whatever one desired, with whomever one wanted, and wearing (or not wearing) whatever clothes seemed like a good idea at the time. Perhaps society needed to break free from the puritanical constraints of earlier generations, but there would be few who could honestly maintain that the results of this revolution have brought about true freedom or the full flourishing of life.
St Paul writes about a similar set of laws – which like the road rules are meant to allow the true flourishing of human life and family within society. Earlier in chapter 3 of his letter to the Colossians, he contrasts the vision of a way of life which seems very like the Woodstock festival. In the passage today he begins by reminding the church that they are called to be saints, and they are already deeply loved by God, as he calls them ever deeper into true life with God.
Recorded at St Paul’s, Camden, 6pm Vigil (10’59”)
Holy Family Sunday, Year C