Fulfillment of the Law

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Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent


Matthew 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. 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, you want me to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven! It’s hard to imagine, since I see myself as weak and so far from sanctity. Help me enter into this time of prayer, speak to me, and help me to be open to your will so that you can help me desire what you desire. 


Encountering Christ:


  1. Had He Come to Abolish?: Jesus brought something radically new to God’s people, the chosen people of Israel, and often surprised them by the changes he made to their teachings. They had, after all, added many extraneous tenets to the law over time, expecting the people to fulfill them. And Jesus was setting some of this aside. He was imploring them to live virtue, not absolute legalism, so it could very well have seemed to them that Jesus had come to abolish the law. In reality, life in the Church was to become much different than the Judaism practiced in those days—a prime example being the replacement of animal sacrifices offered repeatedly in the temple with the celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. 
  2. Until All Things Have Taken Place: God slowly revealed himself to man through the patriarchs of the Old Testament and the prophets. But when God sent the Word, Jesus fulfilled the law and left us revelation that will never change. According to Hebrews 1:1-2, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.” Through the Scripture and Church Tradition, we have this public revelation, and we continue to deepen our understanding of it as the Church has interpreted private revelations for us over the millennia. What a consolation this can be for us, who pray with and meditate daily on the Scriptures, to have this reassurance of truth! It can also be a warning, however: “Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment…” (CCC 67). If we find ourselves objecting to the “smallest letter or the smallest part of the letter,” we can lean on the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. 
  3. The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven: We could very easily become distracted by wondering if the Pharisees, whom Jesus was addressing, were destined to become “least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Rather than concern ourselves with who will be “greatest” or “least,” which is a judgment reserved for Our Lord, let’s take to heart his invitation to obey and teach the commandments to others. By serving Jesus in this way, we are cooperating with the graces Jesus tells us are necessary to enter his eternal Kingdom, and acknowledging that all souls in Heaven are great through his divine will.


Conversing with Christ: Lord, I want to be one of those who love your law. You promise to make me like you, to complete me, and to bring me one day to heaven. Help me see how your law and living it out are a part of that plan so that I can love you more and make your will the passion of my life. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will review the Ten Commandments with an attitude of love.


For Further Reflection: Gospel and Law According to Ratzinger by Eduardo J. Echeverria,  “The Catholic Thing.”


Fr. Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and worked for three years as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. Now he resides in Oakville, Ontario, serving youth and young adults.

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