A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 5:17-19:
Jesus said to his disciples:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
18 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.
19 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.”
Reflection: Love is the law.
It is very clear from the gospel passage above that the Old Testament including the laws of Moses matter to Jesus. Still, many scholars have already debated and some are still debating on the controversy regarding the attitude versus the words of Jesus regarding the law. While it is true that Jesus had several quarrels with the Pharisees and other religious leaders regarding the observance of the laws of Moses, He makes it clear that He is not abolishing the law but fulfilling it and He is exhorting us to follow even the smallest part of the law.
Let us remember that scholars point out that Matthew’s audience was comprised mostly of Jews and He needed to tailor His message to them. It is therefore important to understand the passage in relation to other verses in the New Testament. Reading from Romans 7:1-6, Saint Paul tells us that we, the followers of Jesus, have died with Him and therefore dead to the law. In Hebrews 10: 16, the author mentions a new covenant where the laws are put in our hearts and written on our minds.
With Jesus as the fulfillment of the law, our focus now is our relationship with Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). With faith, we are saved in Him and through Him. It is this faith that allows us to be aware of and to be obedient to His commands.
We died with Jesus and we are made new so we have a new relationship with God based on love which is the summary of the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40, Romans 13:8-10). In love, relationship matters more than rules. In love, everything is transformed including the law and the traditions. As Jesus has said, love is the greatest commandment.
Everywhere there are thousands of laws and regulations to follow. Without these laws, there will be chaos and disorder. Yet even the Ten Commandments of the Old Testaments are hardly obeyed. Yes, only ten commandments but human beings are so stubborn or maybe forgetful as to break them most of the time.
People make laws with the best intentions of making society at large orderly and progressive and individual life easier and more comfortable. In the Old Testament, more than 600 precepts were adopted by religious authorities to be followed by all Jews so that they will be pure or holy in the eyes of God. The intention was good but these laws did not achieve their purpose and instead they became too burdensome especially for the poor sector of the Jewish society. Moreover, the very people who were supposed to be “models” of following these laws did so but in the most superficial manner with the unintended result of becoming hypocrites.
Jesus understands perfectly the purpose of these laws and He wanted them fulfilled. Yet He also sees the unintended effects or shall we say defects in their implementation. So He summarized the law and the prophets into two: love of God and love of self and neighbor. Briefly stated, love is the law. If there is love in our heart, we will obey the commandments and we would be called the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
The Transfiguration is the representation of Jesus fulfilling every letter and every part of the letter of the law. Moses couldn’t- nor could Elijah- Only Jesus!! The voice of God from the clouds spoke to the Disciples and also speaks today-telling Us how to proceed in Love and Relationship with Jesus: Then there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My Son, My Chosen One or My Beloved; listen to and yield to and obey Him! (Luke 9:35)
Thanks for the additional reflection. God bless.