Archive for category Law

Jn 3:16-21 Jesus and Nicodemus (God so loved the world…)

 

There is a popular saying and I quote, “The greatest happiness on earth is a conviction that we are loved.” If we inverse this, however, it may go this way, “The greatest sorrow on earth is a conviction that we are not loved.” Indeed, blessed are they who are loved and cursed are they who are unloved!

If you feel nobody loves you, nobody cares for you and the world is too harsh for you today’s Gospel passage is your consolation, inspiration and hope.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish by might have eternal life” (v. 17). Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your status, duties and circumstances in life, God loves you! He loves you no matter what. He loves you even if. He loves you whatever happens.

How does God love us? How can we characterize the love of God for us?

Even in the Old Testament, it has been recognized by the Israelites that Yahweh is a gracious and merciful Father to His people: “For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13). Gracious to those who do not deserve his goodness and love. Merciful to those who are guilty, the needy and the suffering.

His love is everlasting: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; so I have keep my mercy toward you” (Jer 31:3). It is faithful and trustworthy:  “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be moved from their places, I will not leave you, I will not forget you” (Is 54:10) “Though the heavens may fall and the hills be turned into dust, never will forget you or leave you” (?) “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name” (Is 49:15).

God’s love is providential: “As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything” (Mt 10:30). “In him we live and move and have our being” (Act 17:28).

God’s love is universal. God cares for all. It is all-embracing. The evil as well as the good, the unjust as well as the just are the objects of His love (see Mt 5:45). Each individual is precious in his sight: “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt 18:4). “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents” (Lk 15:7, 10). God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love” (St. Augustine).

“The highest proof of the Father’s love is given and manifested in the mission and person of the Son. Through him, we have seen and believe in the love of God for all of us. God gives his Son as savior of the world (Jn 4:42), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), as the one who gives his flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51), as the light of the world (Jn 9:5; 12:46). Hence, God in his infinite love has sent His Son for its deliverance (Jn 3:17).

Throughout the whole gospel there is far more prominence given than in the Synoptics to the fact that Christ has been sent by the Father (Jn 5:37; 7:16; 8:16, 28). He repeatedly refers to himself as Him whom the Father has sent  (Jn 5:38; 6:29; 10:36; 17:3). He is not come of himself (Jn 7:28), but is come in the name of the Father (Jn 5:43) from whom he has come forth (Jn 8:42; 16:27; 17:8). Not only does the Son, as in the Synoptics, claim to reveal the Father as none other, he asserts that he is in the Father and the Father in him (Jn 10:38; 14:10, 20; 17:21, 23). He and the Father are one (Jn 10:30; 17:22). The words that he speaks have been given him by his Father (Jn 17:16f; 12:49f; 14:10, 24; 17:8). The works that he does are the works of his Father who dwells in him (Jn 14:10). He that has seen him has seen  the Father (Jn 14:9). As the Father has loved him, so he has loved his disciples (Jn 15:9). He sets his love before them as an example, and bids them love one another as he has loved them (Jn 13:34; 15:12). The highest proof of his love is given in his death (Jn 10:15; 15:13).

The Son lays down his life willingly in obedience to the commandment of the Father (Jn 10:17f). For this the Father has given the Son; and the result will be the consummation of the gracious purpose which animated the Father in the giving of the Son. The cross will become the center of attraction. Through it Christ will draw all men unto Him (Jn 12:32;; 8:28; 11:52; cf. 10:15f), and gain the victory over the prince of this world (Jn 12:31). Thus will the love which impelled the Father to the sacrifice of the Son gain the end it seeks to attain, man’s deliverance from the destruction which threatens him, and participation in the blessing of everlasting life” (Jn 3:15f; 6:40f;  James Hastings, D.D., A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, Love).

Jesus is the love of God the Father made visible and audible to His people. Through him we have seen and believe in the love of God the Father for us. Jesus is both the messenger and the message of God’s love for the world. He is the love made flesh. He is the sign and instrument of God’s love for His people. As a disciples of Jesus, let us also be a living signs and instruments of Christ love for the world, for his people. Let us be living bearers, reflectors and messengers of Christ’s love for the world by fulfilling the new commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 15:9, 12).”

Jesus makes charity the new commandment (cf. Jn  13:34). By loving his own “to the end” (Jn 13:1), he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:9, 12; CCC 1823).

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Mt 5:17-19: Teaching About The Law

“Do no deny, seldom affirm and always distinguish” is a normative attitude any would-be-philosopher or rational human being should have. In today’s Gospel, we see its relevance in understanding the life and teaching of Jesus about the law.

Knowing Jesus as someone who broke what the Jews called Law, it is astonishing and puzzling to hear Jesus warning his disciples: “Whoever will break one of the least of these commandments, and will teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of heaven; but whoever will do them and will teach others to do them, he will be called great in the Kingdom of the Heavens” (v. 19) Several passages of the Gospel attests to the very fact and truth that sometimes Jesus did not observe the handwashings that the Law laid down; he healed sick people on the Sabbath, although forbade such healing; he was in fact condemned and crucified as a law-breaker; and yet he seems to speak of the Law with a veneration and a reverence that no Rabbi or Pharisee could exceed.

At first, Jesus appears to be inconsistent and tempts us to judge him by saying: “Look who’s talking? Here we need to distinguish the kind of Law Jesus is referring to? The kind of law we need to follow with reverence and veneration and which is not.

The Jews used the expression The Law in four different ways. (i) They used it to mean the Ten Commandments. (ii) They used it to mean the first five books of the Bible. The part of the Bible which is known as the Pentateuch-which literally means The Five Rolls-was to the Jew the Law par excellence and was to them by far the most important part of the Bible. (iii)They used the phrase The Law and the prophets to mean the whole of Scriptures; they used it as a comprehensive description of what we would call the whole Old Testament. (iv) They used it to mean the Oral or the Scribal Law.

In the time of Jesus it was the last meaning which was the commonest; and it was in fact this Scribal law which both Jesus and Paul so utterly condemned. What, then, was this Scribal law? It refers to a compilation of rules and regulations possibly deducted and expanded out of the great principles of Law. It was believed that the Moses received 613 precepts on Mount Sinai and these were expanded by the Scribes into thousands of rules and regulations.

The Scribes were the men who worked out these rules and regulations. The Pharisees, whose name means The Separated Ones, were the men who had separated themselves from all the ordinary activities of life to keep all these rules and regulation.

For many generations this Scribal Law was never written down; it was the oral law, and it was handed down in the memory of generations of Scribes. In the middle of the third century A.D. a summary of it was made and codified. That summary is known as the Misnah; It contains sixty-three tractates on various subjects of the Law, and in English makes a book of almost eight hundred pages. Later Jewish scholarship busied itself with making commentaries to explain the Misnah. These commentaries are known as the Talmuds. Of the Jerusalem Talmud there are twelve printed volumes; and of the Babylonian Talmud there are sixty printed volumes.

Righteousness, according to the pious Jews, in the time of Jesus, is keeping religiously thousands of legalistic rules and regulations. For them, it is a matter of holiness, it is a matter of salvation. Clearly Jesus did not mean that not one of these rules and regulation was to pass away; repeatedly he broke them himself; repeatedly he condemned them; that is certainly not what Jesus meant by Law, for that is the kind of law that both Jesus and Paul condemned.

“The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral prescription are summed up in the Ten Commandments. The precepts of the Decalogue lay the foundations for the vocation of man fashioned in the image of God; they prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor, and prescribe what is essential to it. The Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God’s call and ways known to him, and protect him against evil: ‘God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts’” (CCC 1962; St Augustine, En. In Ps. 57, 1: PL 36, 673).

The Law is the first stage on the way to the Kingdom. It prepares and disposes the chosen people and each Christian for conversion and faith in the Savior God. It provides teaching which endures forever, like the Word of God. The Old Law is a preparation of  the Gospel. It is completed by the teaching of the sapiental books and the prophets which set its course towards the New Covenant and the kingdom of heaven (see CCC 1963-64).

The Law is “holy, spiritual and good (cf. Rom 7:12, 14, 16),” yet still imperfect. Like a “tutor (cf. Gal 3:24)” it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfill it.

The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel….I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Heb 8:8,10; cf. 31:31-34; CCC 1965).

The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Gospel, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for the persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity. And the entire law of the gospel is contained in the “new commandment” of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us (cf Mt 5:44-48; see CCC 1968-69, cf. Jn 15:12; 13:34).

To fulfill the law to its perfection is to love. Hence, the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. Do we not also find in the First Commandment: Thou shall love, thy God, with all thy whole mind, with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy strength,” a resume and condensation of the fullness of the Law (Rom 13:8, 10). That suffices. So it is that charity expresses all, contains all and crowns all. Charity as the bond of perfection and the fulfillment of the Law (Col 3:14; Rom 13:10) rules over all the means of attaining holiness, gives life to them, and makes them work. Hence, it is the love of God and of neighbor which points out the true disciple of Christ.

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