Fulfilling the Law
March 7, 2018
3rd Week of Lent
1st Reading: Dt 4:1, 5–9
Gospel: Mt 5:17–19
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not think that I have come to remove the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to remove but to fulfill them. I tell you this: as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or stroke of the Law will change until all is fulfilled.
“So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them and teaches others to do the same will be great in the kingdom of heaven.”
(Daily Gospel in the Assimilated Life Experience)
Under pressure from the Romans and burdened by many rules imposed by their religious leaders, the Jews looked forward to a Messiah who’d liberate them. When they observed Jesus violate stringent Sabbath prohibitions, they thought they finally had the hot blooded rebel driven by the passion to go against the political tide. Meanwhile the Pharisees who were self-appointed guardians of the Law were alarmed as they saw in Jesus the rebel to shake the Law of Moses to its foundations. But Jesus clarified that he came not to destroy but to fulfill the Law and the (teachings of) Prophets.
Jesus was, after all as concerned about the fulfillment of the Law of Moses as the Pharisees were. But Jesus had in mind an implementation altogether different from what the Pharisees were advocating.
The Pharisees were advocates of the literal interpretation of the Law, while Jesus was for the liberation of the Law’s life-giving spirit from “the letter that kills”.
What about the people who hailed Jesus as the hot blooded rebel they could count on for their liberation, were they correct? The answer is yes and no. No because Jesus did not intend to disobey the Law; yes because by submitting himself to the Law, Jesus was effectively liberating them. Reflecting on this St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons” (Galatians 4:4).
Today the Pharisees continue to live in those who advocate the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Consider how heavy a burden they impose upon their followers. Would any of them do the same by plucking their eyes should these lead them to sin in literal compliance of Matthew 18:9? We cannot promote the literal interpretation of the Bible, for God is never inclined to condemn us to the literal interpretation of his Word. “For the letter kills,” St. Paul wrote, “but the spirit gives life.”(2 Cor. 3:6). – (Atty.) Rev. Fr. Dan Domingo P. delos Angeles, Jr., D.M.
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