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Wednesday – Third Week – Lent
Readings: Deut 4:1, 5-9; Mt 5:17-19.
1/ First Reading: NAB Deuteronomy 4:1 “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 5 Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the LORD, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. 6 Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? 8 Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today? 9 “However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”
2/ Gospel: NAB Matthew 5:17 “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.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P.
I. THEME: God’s law protects human life.
Many people are irritated when they have to follow the law because it prevents them to do what they want. They consider the law as an obstacle because it limits human freedom. They forget that the law is promulgated to protect people. The law is liken as the fence to keep people safe; if they go over the fence, they must endure many bad results, even death.
Today readings rotate around the benefits of the law in human life. In the first reading, the author of Deuteronomy ascertained that the law itself is God’s wisdom because it comes from Him, to help people to have a good life and to avoid all dangers. In the Gospel, some of the Pharisees and the scribes thought Jesus intended to abolish the law which God gave to the Israelites through Moses and the prophets; but Jesus clearly declared that he comes to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.
1/ Reading I: People need to learn and to keep God’s law.
1.1/ The law is an valuable inheritance: The Israelites are proud of the law and have a reason to be proud of because it comes from God. There is none who can understand a product better than its inventor. God not only creates people but also all things that surround them. He knows what people think, want and like to do. He also knows what is good or bad for people. In opposition, people don’t know as such if they don’t spent their time to learn.
The reason that God gives the law for His people is to help them to achieve good and to avoid bad results. There is none who is more wiser to promulgate the law for people than God. This is the reason why Moses asked the Israelites in today reading: “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”
1.2/ Keeping the law guarantees good results for human life: The law is given for people to observe, not to frame it to worship. Moses commanded people: “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the Lord, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy.”
Violating of the law or not observing it shall cause many terrible results, even death. The responsibility of leaders and parents is to instruct people and children to know the law before they can observe it. Many times, leaders and parents neglected this duty. Moses reminded people of this duty: “However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”
2/ Gospel: Jesus came to fulfill the law.
2.1/ Many Jews thought that Jesus wanted to abolish the law: Most of Jesus’ controversies with the Jews were centered around the law, such as: impurity, keeping of the Sabbath, fasting, prayer and giving alms. Many leaders of people thought Jesus wanted to abolish the law and taught people to insult it. However, in all cases, Jesus would like to correct their misunderstanding and wrong applications of the law.
(1) There is a difference between divine, natural and human law: We can’t go in details of these three laws but would like to stress that the divine and natural law are immovable because they directly come from God; while human law can be changed with time and places. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus made a differentiation between divine and human law: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things” (Mk 7:10-13). Jesus wanted to say that people must keep the divine law if there is a conflict with human law. People can refuse to keep human law if it is against God’s law.
(2) There is a difference between the spirit and the application of the law: Jesus reminded them: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mk 2:27). For example, the Sabbath existed for the sake of human beings; therefore, healing on the Sabbath is the right thing to do. The Pharisees and the scribes also did that for their animals if they felt into ditches on the Sabbath; why did they prevent Jesus to heal the sick on that day? (Mt 12:1-12).
(3) To prove their misunderstanding about the law of impurity, Jesus compared outside with inside impurity: “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of a person, that is, what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” (Mk 7:18-23).
2.2/ Jesus came to fulfill the law: To correct their wrong judgment about him, Jesus clearly declared: “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.” What did Jesus do to fulfill the law? Chapter 5 of Matthew’s gospel contained Jesus’ perfect teaching of the law. Some examples of this teaching are:
– The purity of mind: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27-28).
– The love of one’s enemy: “For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:46-48).
– The perfection: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).
– The unity: Jesus prayed for his disciples to have the unity between his Father and him: “I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (Jn 17:23).
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God’s law is given for our benefits and perfection; we must love and keep it to benefit ourselves, our family and society.
– To do what God and Jesus command is the way of perfection and to avoid all dangers. There is none who can teach us a better way than them.