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Wednesday – Tenth week – OT1
Readings: 2 Cor 3:4-11; Mt 5:17-19.
1/ First Reading: RSV 2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was, 8 will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? 9 For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it. 11 For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 5:17 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
I. THEME: The New perfects the Old covenant.
The author of the Book of Ecclesiates said about the necessary of time as follows: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up” (Eccl. 3:1-3).
St. Paul talked about the necessary of experience: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor 13:11). When looking back at their young age, many people are regretted because they can’t believe that they were so innocent and lacking of mature as such; but in the progress of being mature, they must go through such kinds of experience.
Similarly, when comparing between the Old and the New Covenant in God’s plan of salvation, we need to pay attention to the two aspects: time and experience, because God doesn’t do useless thing. Since people can’t receive everything at one time, so He prepares many things according to time though He isn’t limited by time. Since human ability is limited, God prepares some things from imperfection to perfection though He has power to do perfect things right away. In the progress of being perfection, there must be old thing before new thing, and the new perfects the old. If there is no old thing, there shall be no new thing.
Today readings are two examples of being perfection. In the first reading, when Paul is questioned by the conservative Jews, he let them see the perfection of the New Covenant by comparing it with the Old Covenant; and the glory achieved by serving the New Covenant is also greater than the glory achieved by serving the Old Covenant. In the Gospel, when some Pharisees thought Jesus comes to teach people to skip the Law, he declared to them, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
1/ Reading I: The New is more perfected than the Old Covenant.
1.1/ The competition between the two covenants: Like Jesus, Paul also has experience about the competition between Moses’ law and Christ’s teaching. According to Paul’s former life, he eagerly persecuted those who follow the new way because he thought their way is bad because it completely different with the Law and the tradition until Christ revealed for him his power and teaching on the way to Damascus. This experience helps him to love and to have compassion on those Jews who are difficult to accept Christ’s teaching, though they continually persecuted him as they did to Christ.
In today passage, he shared his experience about the two covenants with them as follows: “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God,who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
(1) The Old Covenant: The covenant which based on a written code is the Old Covenant which God made with people on the Sinai Mountain. In this covenant, He gave them the Ten Commandments, carved on two stony tablets. Moses showed them the Ten Commandments and solemnly said to them as follows:
“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess” (Deut 30:15-18).
Though the Israelites were clearly commanded as such, but none of them can say that they never violate any of God’s commandments; and as a result for violation, all of them must die as God forewarned. But God doesn’t want people to die forever; this is the reason why He shall establish with people the New Covenant.
(2) The New Covenant: The prophet Jeremiah foretold about this covenant as follows:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:31-34).
The New Covenant is also called the Covenant of Love which God puts in our heart and the Holy Spirit shall give us strength to fulfill all God’s requirements.
1.2/ The glory is achieved by serving the Holy Spirit: Paul also compared the glory achieved by the serving between the two covenants, and made the following conclusion: “Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was,will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor?For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor.Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it.For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor.”
2/ Gospel: “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
All God’s words and law are good and unchangeable because they originated from God and help people to live a good life. The other part belongs to people. If they do that, they shall get the result. Jesus confirmed this principle as follows: “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.” Below are two main reasons that make people to misunderstand God’s words:
(1) People don’t understand the principle of the law and interpret it according to their understanding: For example, the Sabbath’s law. The principle is for people to worship God and to rest; not to argue about problems related to life, such as: whether one should heal or be healed on the Sabbath; whether one can pluck out the wheat and eat it, etc.
(2) People created more laws: The leaders of Israel created 615 more laws based on the laws which God gave to Moses, not counting oral laws according to their tradition. Human laws can be changed and abolished.
When Jesus argued with the scribes and the Pharisees on problems related to the laws, he wanted people to differentiate between the divine and the human laws. The Pharisees and the scribes wanted to show people that Jesus broke them and wanted to abolish God’s laws. Jesus wanted them to recognize the principle behind the law which is the love for God and others, not keeping the law for the sake of laws.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to avoid the two extremities: Some people don’t want to have any change, they want to keep everything that belong the Law and the tradition; in opposition, there are some who want to change everything, they criticize and want to change all things that belong to the past.
– The wise are those who carefully think and compare to recognize what is good of the past that needs to be retained; what is bad that needs to get rid of; and what is needed to be adapted to make it better.