Fullness of person, fulfillment of law

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Week VI-A, 16 February 2020

Sirach 15:15-20 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 ><)))*> Matthew 5:17-37

Photo by author of pilgrims entering the Church of the Beatitudes with a painting of the Sermon on the Mount above the door, May 2019.

Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount this Sunday, expounding the meaning of his teachings called the Beatitudes. As we have reflected last week, the Beatitudes tell us the person of Jesus Christ as being “poor, merciful, clean of heart” whom we must all imitate to become the salt and the light of the world.

Most important of all, Matthew presents to us at the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus is more than the new Moses as giver of laws like at Mt. Sinai in the Old Testament: Jesus himself is the Law, who is both our Teacher and Redeemer.

This we see in his teachings today when he claims to be the fulfillment of the Laws and the Prophets from God in the Old Testament.

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 it. 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.”

Matthew 5:17-18

Essence of the Laws: reflection of God, the good of man

Today, Jesus is teaching us to see the laws in the right perspectives, in the light of the will of God for the good of every person. Throughout his ministry, Jesus has always been consistent in reminding everyone that the laws were made for man, not the other way around.

During Christ’s time, people have lost the real meaning of the Commandments of God as priests and religious leaders focused more on its letters than in its essence and spirit that in the process, the laws have become burdensome. It has continued in our own generation with laws taking precedence over God and persons.

Photo by author of the Church of the Beatitudes at the Holy Land, May 2019.

At the Sermon on the Mount, we find Jesus restoring and recalibrating the laws so that these become more relevant and powerful as reflections of God in the service of man.

Jesus “relectures” us the laws in this part of his Sermon on the Mount by adding more righteousness (holiness), declaring that,

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:20

By using a pattern where he would cite Laws, saying, “You have heard that it was said”– Jesus shows us his fidelity and obedience to Judaism, contrary to his enemies’ accusations that he had abolished their laws. Moreover, in fulfilling the laws, Jesus put himself in the midst of every law and precept by declaring, “Amen, I say to you” or “but I say to you”.

In following that formula, Jesus gave the laws with a human face and a human heart in himself as its fulfillment so that from then on at his Sermon on the Mount, Christ made every law, every tradition, everything else to be seen always in his person.

Black and white photo by Mr. Jay Javier in Quiapo, 09 January 2020.

Performative powers of the laws in Jesus Christ

With Jesus in the midst of every law and precept as its fulfillment, God’s laws then become not only informative but most of all, performative to borrow one of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s favorite expression. This we find Jesus teaching us in three stages in our long gospel this Sunday.

  1. Education of the heart.

The first two laws cited by Jesus in this long list of commandments are “You shall not kill” and “you shall not commit adultery”. Both laws bring us to the very core of our personhood, of what is in our hearts and in our minds. The Lord explains that being angry as well as saying bad words against another person is like murder while looking lustfully at a woman is a form of adultery because in both cases, we have ceased to regard the other individuals as persons to be loved and respected, created in the image and likeness of God.

From Google.

It is an invitation for us to purify our hearts and minds for what defiles man is not what enters him but what comes out from him (Mt.15:11). Whatever is within us will always have an effect in all of our actions, for better or for worse.

What a tragedy that right here in the middle of our wired world of social media and instant communications, we have actually grown apart than together in the last 35 year with so much animosities fed on by lies and misinformation.

How ironic also that despite the information explosion from the Net, we have more benighted souls today than ever before who have actually gone to schools who know nothing of our history and geography?!

Education of the heart is formation of the whole person, not just a training of skills. One problem we have these days is when information is geared on data and facts without integration that we forget our relationships as well as the values we keep like respect, kindness, and dedication. Unless we have an education of the heart, a wholistic and integral formation, we can never be transformed into like Jesus Christ.

2. Get into the roots of our sins.

In telling us to pluck out our right eye or cut off our right hand if these cause us to sin, Jesus is inviting us again to probe deep into our hearts and being to understand what causes us to sin.

Photo by author, water plants in my room at the Fatima Parish and National Shrine, Valenzuela City, 2010.

The key here is to be totally free. In the first reading, Ben Sirach counsels us to “choose” rightly what is good and avoid what is evil.

We can only exercise our true freedom when we have clearer knowledge and understanding of ourselves and of things within us. We fall into vices and sins because we do not know what is going on inside us; hence, we are enslaved by our desires and sins to be not free at all.

Once we understand our sins, we commit them less often. Most of all, when we understand our sins, our struggles against committing these become more persevering, resulting to more triumphs than defeats.

The Season of Lent is near. Once again, we shall be busy with fasting and abstinence, contrition and confession of sins, almsgiving and other spiritual works that make us holy. But too often, these acts become mechanical that sooner, we sometimes reach that point when we cannot find meaning in doing them anymore that we sink deeper into sins and evil.

This happens when we get focused with letters of the laws and we forget its spirit that we become mechanical because we have failed to understand our very selves as well as our sins.

3. Be true.

Jesus said it perfectly well at the end of his teachings today,

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37

In this last installment of reviewing the laws, Jesus underscored the problems with divorce as well as with lies that continue to this day because we always choose not to be true at all with ourselves, with God, and with others.

Photo by author of the last two Stations of the Cross at the chapel of my niece Ms. Babs Sison in Los Baños, Laguna 13 February 2020.

See the wisdom of Jesus in putting together divorce and oaths, the two great lies that until now continue to mislead so many among us who refuse to accept and carry the cross of Christ, preferring only the Easter Sunday minus the Good Friday.

Being true is embracing the Cross of Jesus Christ like St. Paul in the second reading. It is something we cannot deny in this life. There will always be pain and sufferings. As Dr. Scott Peck put it in his book The Road Less Travelled, “life is difficult.”

At his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly showed in his Beatitudes that he and his values are in sharp contrast to the wisdom of the world. And this wisdom is only accessible to those willing to embrace the crucified Christ and the scandal of the cross.

It is there on the Cross with Jesus Christ we truly find the fulfillment of the laws as well as our fullness as persons. Amen.

Have a blessed Sunday, everyone!

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