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Fulfilling the Law
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
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. 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.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, thank you for your word. Help me to obey and teach others your commandments always.
- The “Unalterable Word”: Mosaic Law is contained in the Torah, which is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. For the Jewish people in Christ’s time, strict adherence to this law was thought absolutely necessary for salvation. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets; his coming is the source of our true salvation. St. John tells us how Jesus completes the law: “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17). Indeed, Jesus did change some Mosaic traditions, such as Sabbath customs (Mark 3:1-5) and declaring all foods clean (Mark 7:19). But the law of God did not change. In fact, Christ is the Logos, God’s “unalterable word” (Isaiah 45:23). St. Peter tells us how God’s Word is eternal: “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; but the Word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25). At the Incarnation, God the Father sent forth his Son to become man. This was far greater than when he revealed his law to Moses. Christ the Word (John 1:1) was sent to restore us to the image of God, save us from our sins, and fulfill the law that had, until then, been only partially revealed. God the Father sent his Son, the fulfillment of the Commandments, to bring his law to earth personally: “He sends forth his command to the earth; swiftly runs his word!” (Psalms 147:15).
- The Transfiguration: Jesus demonstrated his fulfillment as the law and the prophets at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). On Mount Tabor, Jesus’s appearance became dazzling white as he prayed. Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) “appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” All the promises that God made to his people throughout salvation history and recorded in the Old Testament were accomplished in Christ: “For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
- The New Law: As Catholics, we consider the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai as divine law, because God himself revealed this law to his people. When Jesus came to earth, he revealed even more of this divine law. According to the Catechism, “Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in their letter” (CCC 2054). Jesus added “grace and truth” to the Commandments when he added love: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). St. Paul tells us that Jesus is the law: “For Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith” (Romans 10:4). He is the goal of the law, and all law is to be interpreted through him. Jesus is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus–love itself–is the fulfillment of the commandments. Love is the new law.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I stand in wonder at your glory. You revealed your holiness and glory to us at the Transfiguration. You showed yourself to be light and truth itself. You are the commandments. You are the law. Help me to continue to fulfill your law by loving you with everything I have and loving my neighbor as myself.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer a work of mercy for one of my brethren out of love for you and for them.
For Further Reflection: Read this article from Catholic Answers: “Did Jesus Reject the Old Law?”
Written by Carey Boyzuck.