14 March 2007

FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW


Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Lent
Mt 5:17-19

Any law puts the conscience and highest aspirations of a people into words. It expresses the deepest and vital values that animate a culture.

The Torah is the Jewish Law. It evolved from the Ten Commandments God gave the Israelites through Moses on Sinai. It reflects the vision of what the Israelites – God’s Chosen People – should be. Obedience to it moulds not only the identity of the Israelites but also how the afterlife will be for them. Thus, the Torah is never trivial or disposable.

Being a good Jew, Jesus declares categorically today that He does not support any move to disregard the Law. He is no lawbreaker because He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Matthew, who in writing his gospel, tries to show a parallelism between Moses and Jesus, is just a breath away from saying that Jesus, and not Moses, is the real Lawgiver. Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of the Law. It is very significant to note that following the two passages that comprise our Gospel today, is Jesus’ litany of “the Law says, but I say.…”

It is Jesus who gives real meaning to the Law of Moses. Becoming more and more like Jesus, therefore, fulfills the Law. This changes the Old Testament definition of righteousness from “obedience to the Law” to “configuration to Jesus”. If righteousness were mere obedience to the Law, it can easily make us fall into hypocrisy. And this is precisely the problem with many of the scribes, Pharisees, chief priests, and elders of the people whom Jesus criticizes left and right.

Lent is a special time to reflect on how much we have so far become like Jesus even as we examine where we fail in obeying the Ten Commandments and the Five Precepts of the Church. The law may be the conscience of a people, but Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.

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