Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Reading 1 Dt 4:1, 5-9
Gospel Mt 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."
I have often wondered if Jesus said he had not come to abolish the law, why then did he encounter such opposition from the Pharisees and scribes?
The answer can be found in the second part of the statement "but to fulfill it". God's law was born out of a covenant relationship: you will be my people, and I will be your God. Love is the foundation of the law.
Sh'ma Yisra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. ... And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Dt. 6:4-5)
This is the cornerstone of the law: love of God and Jesus would emphasize a second piece in its fulfilment: "The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Mt. 22:39-40)
So this was a challenge to the Jewish leaders, hence the opposition, and to some of us today, who tend to be so legalistic when interpreting God's laws that we impose burdens on the people. God's law was meant for freedom.
True obedience of all the commandments requires loving God with our whole heart and our whole soul and our whole mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. That is freedom. Legalism is not complete obedience, and obeying God because we're afraid of punishment is not an obedience that's motivated by love. That is fear.
This Lent let us move from fear into freedom. Peace.
The Season of Lent is a special time for us to slow down, look inward and make the necessary changes to truly become an Easter people.