In today's first reading from the Liturgy of the Hours we see a list of rules put forth by Moses for the people of God. This list covers everything from marriage and divorce to muzzling oxen. This seemingly endless list of rules addresses debt, leprosy, punishment of children, duty to orphans and widows, greed, and law. These rules are taken out of the book of Deuteronomy, the Second Law. In fact, the book is largely a list of laws and punishments covering all aspects of the life of God's people.
When I taught CCD, inevitably the question would arise, "Why does the Church have so many rules?". It's a good question to ask. Why does the Church have so many rules? Why did Moses write down so many rules?
I believe the answer to both questions can be found in contemplating what life would be like without the rules. One need only imagine highways without road signs to see the dangers of this line of thought. No mile markers, no exit signs, no speed limit signs, no yield signs, no caution signs, no curves ahead signs, no school zone signs..... That is, in fact, what these rules are meant to be, signs to guide us safely through life. What would your life look like if you weren't trying to follow the Ten Commandments? What would your life look like if others weren't trying to follow the Ten Commandments? The absence of these rules, these signs, can be seen nightly on the evening news.
Do these rules, these signs, force us to obey? Absolutely not, if they did, there would be no sin or troubles in the world, and no free will. The Ten Commandments, the precepts of the Church, the Catechism, and the like are all signs, helps, assistance, to lead us on toward Heaven.
Why does the Church have so many rules? Love. It is out of love that the Church establishes these rules for our welfare. Like Moses, the Church wants to see all of God's children enter the Promised Land and so She, like Moses, gives us guidelines and road signs that help us along the way.