The letter of the Law
June 12, 2019
10th Week in Ordinary Time1st Reading: 2 Cor 3:4-11 Gospel:
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)
In his Essay entitled “The Faculties of the Mind”, Jonathan Swift wrote: “Laws are like cob webs which may catch small flies but let wasps and hornets break through”. Swift’s maxim states the obvious. Laws can be harsh to the marginalized but permissive to the elite. President Ramon Magsaysay’s “those who have less in life should have more in law” was not said without basis.
If laws can be unjust, then we should not follow the law blindly. If we talk about not following the law blindly Jesus easily comes to mind. He defied even the most important Jewish Law: the Sabbath Law. In the light of today’s Gospel reading this is baffling. Why did he say (in today’s Gospel reading) that “As long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or stroke of the Law will change until all is fulfilled”? How do we explain this apparent inconsistency?
The answer to this question requires an appreciation of the new law of Love, which Jesus was advocating. Jesus hinted to a time when this new law of love would take effect. The phrase “as long as heaven and earth last” refers to a period that was then ending. Until that last and final age was over, Jesus’ teachings were to remain within the framework of the existing Jewish laws. His Death was to signal the end of that age. The resurrection was to usher in a new age governed by the new law of Love.
Swift’s analogy of the law as a cobweb catching small flies but allowing hornets to break through may not be true to the Law of Moses because it was divinely inspired. The reason why Jesus was extra careful in observing the Law of Moses was more because of the flawed interpretation and application by the Scribes, the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. When such interpretation became oppressive of people Jesus had to put his foot down. In the context of the law of Love, anything oppressive of people was off tangent. Jesus’ zeal for the dawning of the new law of Love compelled him to nip in the bud anything prejudicial to it. – (Atty.) Rev. Fr. Dan Domingo P. delos Angeles, Jr., D.M.
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