The Gospel according to Matthew (5:17-19)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Opening Prayer: Grant we pray, O Lord, that, schooled through Lenten observance and nourished by your word, through holy restraint we may be devoted to you with all our heart and be ever united in prayer. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen
Remembrance is a mesmerizing thing. We can suppress the things that have hurt us in order to shelter ourselves. We can call up happy memories around certain dates, or when we smell an aroma coming from the kitchen or hear that special song. We can often find, out of nowhere, a memory from when we were younger, and wonder where that memory came from and why at this moment. In today’s Gospel, remembering is significant. We are told to be on the lookout, don’t forget, or else…they’re not comforting words to us, if we are honest with ourselves. They may make us a little uneasy. Which of God’s laws have we chosen to forget out of convenience or laziness? What do we need to remember in order to make a course correction in our life, right now, so that our path stays on God’s course rather than our own? Jesus tells us that whoever obeys these laws will be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mosaic Law is contained in the Torah, which are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. For the Jewish people in Christ’s time, strict obedience to this law was thought absolutely necessary for salvation. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets; his coming is the source of our true salvation. St. John tells us how Jesus completes the law: “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).
Jesus demonstrated his fulfillment as the law and the prophets at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). On Mount Tabor, Jesus’ appearance became dazzling white as he prayed. Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) “appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” All the promises that God made to his people throughout salvation history and recorded in the Old Testament were accomplished in Christ.
As Catholics, we consider the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai as divine law, because God himself revealed this law to his people. When Jesus came to earth, he revealed even more of this divine law. According to the Catechism, “Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in their letter” (CCC 2054). Jesus added “grace and truth” to the Commandments when he added love: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). He is the goal of the law, and all law is to be interpreted through him. Jesus is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus is love in itself–it is the fulfillment of the commandments. Love is the new law!
Closing Prayer: Direct, O Lord, we pray, the hearts of your faithful, and in your kindness grant your servants this grace that, abiding in the love and their neighbor, they may fulfill the whole of your commands, Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Action of the Day: Jesus, you are the commandments. You are the law. Help me to continue to fulfill your law by loving you with everything I have and loving my neighbor as myself. Do something kind to the neighbors who live on both sides of you.