Archive for category Matthew

Mt 11:25-30 The Praise of the Father

These are among the most beloved and quoted verses in the Bible, because all of us feel burdened and in need of rest.

Jesus is addressing the crowds who are following Him, “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36): “Come to Me”. The Pharisees weighed them down with an endless series of petty regulations (cf. Acts 15:10), yet they brought no peace to their souls.

In their original context, these verses spoke specifically to those burdened by the Jewish law.  Rabbis often spoke of the yoke of the law (Aboth 3:5) or of the commandments (Berakoth 2:2), but always in praise.  To accept this yoke, they said, is to put off the yoke of earthly monarchies and worldly care” (Johnson, 390).  They have a point.  We cannot choose to serve no master at all, but can choose only which master we will serve.  The yoke of the law is better than the yoke of the world, because the yoke of the law is God-inspired.  In the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, however, the yoke of the law became almost as burdensome as the yoke of the world.

Jesus does not propose that we go yoke-less, but that we accept his yoke, which is chrestos — “manageable, i.e., mild, pleasant (as opposed to harsh, hard, sharp)” (Thayer, 671).  A well-made yoke distributes the load evenly, making the task easier.  A well-fitted yoke follows the contours of the oxen’s neck so that it does not rub or chaff.   “At certain points (Jesus’) interpretation [of the law] will be more lenient (Sabbath observance), at others more stringent (divorce) than that of the Pharisees, but law observance as a whole will be simplified by his emphasis on ‘the weightier matters of the law:  justice and mercy and faithfulness’ (23:23) and on the double commandment of love (22:37-40) (Hare, 128-129).

While the original context referred to the burden of the Jewish law, there is nothing in these words to suggest that they should not also extend to our weariness and burdens today.  We are weary today, even though we do not observe the Jewish law.  We are burdened by many things:

  • busyness
  • traffic
  • concerns about jobs — marriage — money — health — children — security — old age
  • tough choices
  • criticism or opposition
  • loneliness and emptiness
  • and a thousand other things
  • If you feel life is burdensome and tiresome “Jesus says now and always, `Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ His attitude towards us is one of invitation, knowledge and compassion; indeed, it is one of offering, promise, friendship, goodness, remedy of our ailments; He is our comforter; indeed, our nourishment, our bread, giving us energy and life” (Pope Paul VI, “Homily on Corpus Christi”, 13 June 1974).  Therefore, “All you who go about tormented, afflicted and burdened with the burden of your cares and desires, go forth from them, come to Me and I will refresh you and you shall find for your souls the rest which your desires take from you” (St. John of the Cross, “Ascent of Mount Carmel”, Book 1, Chapter 7, 4).

Jesus’ concern for our burdens is as real as his concern for law-burdened Jews of his day.  His promise is also as real. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”  (Mt 11:28) Jesus still does that!  Jesus still gives us rest

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John 3:16-18 God Sends His Son (Trinity Sunday)

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, also called Trinity Sunday. It is celebrated in the Christian churches on the Sunday following Pentecost (the 50th day after Easter). It is known that the feast was celebrated on this day from as early as the 10th century. Celebration of the feast gradually spread in the churches of northern Europe, and in 1334 Pope John XXII approved it for the entire church.

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Holy Trinity we confess, adore and honor God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit the three divine persons, yet co-eternal, co-substantial, one and the same God. This celebration is not only a credal affirmation of our belief in the Trinity of Persons and Unity of Godhead but it is it also a remembrance of our origin and destiny: the God we personally believe from who we came is the same God who calls us back home.

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and the life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith” (GCD 43). The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin” (GCD 47; CCC 234).

The trinity (from “trias” of which the Latin “trinitas” is a translation was first coined by Theophilus of Antioch (circa 180)) is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God” (Dei Filius 4: DS 3015). To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout Old Testament. But his inmost being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, a great philosopher and theologian. He was preoccupied with the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of one God in three persons and to be able to explain it logically. One day he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this matter. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a whole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup with sea water, ran up and emptied the cup into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine drew up and said to her, “Little child, what are you doing?” She replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” “How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?” She answered back, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.

The doctrine of the inner relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in such a way that each of them is fully and equally God, yet there are not three Gods but one, cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind. It is a mystery. A mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains “hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness” (Const., “De fide. cath.”, iv). St. Jerome says, in a well-known phrase: “The true profession of the mystery of the Trinity is to own that we do not comprehend it” (De mysterio Trinitatus recta confessio est ignoratio scientiae — “Proem ad 1. xviii in Isai.”).

Though trinity is a mystery whose whole truth is unfathomable by human reason alone we can somehow comprehend a part of it when Jesus the Son of God made man (Jn 1:14) revealed God the Father (Mt 11:27) and sent his Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us into all the truth (Jn 14:17, 26 16:13). This is our dogma of the Holy Trinity:

  • The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the cosubstantial Trinity” (Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421). The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire (cf. CCC 253).
  • The divine Unity is Triune. The divine persons are really distinct from one another in their relation of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds” Lateral Council IV (1215): DS 804; cf. CCC 254).
  • The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationship which relate them to one another…While they are called three persons in view of their relationships, we believe in one nature or substance (Council of Toledo XI (675) DS 528). “Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son” (Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331).

As we profess our faith today in the mystery of the Holy Trinity may we also pray to them to help us become a true child of God our Father, a living image of Jesus his Son and a consecrated temple of the Holy Spirit. Let us also pray as Christ did that all may be one as God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit are one and heed Christ command after he has risen from the dead: “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:18).

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Mt 25:31-46 The Judgment of the Nations

 Solemnity of Christ the King – Year A
Ez 34:11-12,15-17; 1Cor 15:20-26, 28; Matt 25:31-46

We call Fernando Poe, Jr. as king of Philippine movies or Miss Gloria Romero as queen of the Philippine movies. We have also princes and princesses of Philippine action movies. We call Sharon CuÑeta as megastar or Maricel Soriano as diamond star or Vilma Santos as star of all seasons and Nora as Superstar.

We call too Inday Badiday as queen of intrigues but I don’t know if there is also king of intrigues. Christy Fermin as somebody says that she’s queen of gossip. But I don’t know if there is king of gossip. How about Jesus Christ? We call Him as King of all nations and today we dedicate this last Sunday of liturgical calendar of the church for this title. Next Sunday we will enter into the season of Advent.

The gospel that is being used is one of the most vivid parables Jesus eve spoke and the lesson is crystal clear that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need. His judgment will not depend on the knowledge we have amassed or the fame we have acquired or the fortune we have gained or the success we have achieved but on the help and love that we have given for our neighbor.

This parable teaches us three things about that we must give to the three Ls (the Lost, the Least and the Last) of our society.

First, it must be help in simple things. Giving food to those who are in hungry is simple and very easy. Giving a glass of water to those who are thirsty is very simple and easy too. Everybody can do it. Or giving a bed to those who have none or visiting the sick and the prisoners are very simple and easy which everybody can do everyday. These deeds do not need our names to be written in a replica or to be published in a newspaper or to be flashed in the projector of the church so that others may see and read.

Second, it must be help which is uncalculating. Those who help did not think that they were helping Christ and thus piling up eternal merit. They helped because they could not stop themselves in helping. They help not because they run for public office or so that they may vote for them. They helped because it was natural and instinctive for them to help. Whereas, on the other hand, the attitude of those who failed to help was: “if we have known it was you we would gladly have to help, but we thought it was only common tao (person) who was not worth helping.”

I, myself, I am a victim of this. We back in 1988 when I was in my Spiritual Pastoral Formation Year (SPFY) in Cagayan de Oro City, we have had a one-month hospital exposure where we worked as janitors of the hospital. Some of the doctors and nurses knew that we were seminarians. It happened that I entered the room of a patient belonging to a middle class family in order to clean the room. The patient was sleeping. The mother of the patient got angry with me because I entered the room and I’m disturbing the patient in her sleeping. I reasoned out that it was the time for us to clean the room and I don’t know that she was sleeping but she did not listen. She continued talking and so I went out from the room without cleaning the room too.

Afterwards, she asked one of the janitors about me. The janitor told the lady that I am a seminarian. The following day when I entered the room, the lady was so accommodating and even gave me snack and invited me to have a lunch. She told me: “ I was thinking yesterday that you are just a mere janitor in this hospital that is why I shouted you yesterday and got angry with you. If you have just told me that you are a seminarian, then, I would not do it for you.”

“So, that’s the way you treat ordinary people like janitors?” I told her but she did not answer.

Up to this day, there are those who help because they are given praise, thanks and publicity and in that sense they have already received their rewards. But help like this is not help at all but in order to expand his or her self-esteem. I rather prefer and appreciate those who do not want their names to be published but just considering themselves as anonymous donors because in that sense there is a fulfillment and meaning in life.

Third, all such help given is given to him and such help withheld is withheld from him. Just like St. Francis of Assisi. He was a wealthy man, high-born and high-spirited but he was not happy. He felt that life was incomplete. Then one day he was out riding and met a leper, loathsome and repulsive in the ugliness of his disease. Something moved St. Francis to dismount and fling his arms around this wretched sufferer and in his arms the face of the leper changed into the face of Christ.

May be today we could experience what St. Francis had experienced but there are so many instances that Christ is very much present. What they? You may discover them in others and our conscience will tell us.

Fr. Joseph Benetiz
http://justmehomely.wordpress.com

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Reflection:

Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine. It is said that heaven’s gate will be guarded not by Peter but by the poor who will let in only those they recognize who have helped them. There the question will no longer be what we believe in, what we have accomplished, or what we are bringing in. There and then, the question will be simpler: What have you done for these least of my brothers? And it will not be a question only of actions. We may have done charity, we may have donated much, and we may have given our time. But where was our heart? How did we live our life? Was care and concern our language?

It is also said that only two things will be asked at the end of life: First, did you find joy in your life? Second, was your life a joy to others?

Visit an orphanage with your family this Sunday 

http://graceandspace.org/welcome/home/365-days-with-the-lord/1166-the-judgment-of-the-nations.html

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Mt 25: 14-30 The Parable of the Talents

In this parable the main theme is stewardship.  It answers question on how to handle all the gifts of nature and grace which God has given us. To be a true steward, they should be handled wisely, responsibly and productively. They should yield a profit or bear fruit. It does not matter how many gifts we have received; what matters is our generosity in putting them to good use. We will be judged by God based on our stewardship at the end of time.

This parable gives us five points to be considered in pursuing the virtue of stewardship:

First, God gives to every man according to his several ability (see Matthew 25:15). Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Lk 12:48). The true standard for distribution of wealth is not, as expressed by the Marxist view, “to each according to his need,” but rather to each “according to his ability.” The reason lies in the fact that without ability, even that which a man receives shall be wasted, neglected, or diminished, and in the law of economic progress there can never be, in the final analysis, any substitute for ability.

“Some of us are too quick to assume that we are the second- and third-string players or that we are spiritual klutzes. We forget that God, in his perfect judgment, adjusts credit and blame to allow for the circumstances of the individual in question. The gospel is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ arrangement in that regard. God puts us all in different circumstances in this life and judges us accordingly. In the Parable of the Talents, it didn’t matter that one servant had been given five talents and the other only two. What mattered most was what both servants did with what God gave them. The Master said to each of them, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ (“Matt. 25:21Matthew 25:21). It is better to be a faithful second-string player with limited talents (pun intended) than to be an unfaithful superstar” (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, 34.).

Second, gifts and graces are not only to be preserved but to be develop to make it productive for the common good of all. 

 “Now we come to the one-talent servant (see “Mt 25:26-30). We are saddened and disappointed in this part of the drama because first there was an excuse, then a display of the fear that caused him to hide the talent. He had been afraid to assume the responsibility. His attitude was one of resentment and faultfinding, saying he found the master to be a hard man, even harvesting where he had not sown. There are many in the world like this servant, idle and unwilling to work for their master—interested only in themselves. There are those who become so involved in the things of the world and their own selfish interests that they will not make the attempt or put forth the effort to magnify one little talent entrusted to them by the Lord.” (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 262.)  

 “Likewise the Church member who has the attitude of leaving it to others will have much to answer for. There are many who say: ‘My wife does the Church work!’ Others say: ‘I’m just not the religious kind,’ as though it does not take effort for most people to serve and do their duty. But God has endowed us with talents and time, with latent abilities and with opportunities to use and develop them in his service. He therefore expects much of us, his privileged children. The parable of the talents is a brilliant summary of the many scriptural passages outlining promises for the diligent and penalties for the slothful. (see “Mt. 25:14-30.) From this we see that those who refuse to use their talents in God’s cause can expect their potential to be removed and given to someone more worthy. Like the unproductive fig tree (see Mt. 21:18-20) their barren lives will be cursed. To them on judgment day will come the equivalent of these devastating words:

’. . . Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers—. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents—. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Mt. 25:26-29, 30.)” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 100)

Third, gifts and graces are entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away;  not for our own gain, but for the Lords’ purposes here upon earth. The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service.

“The special talents with which we have been blessed—our intelligence, physical abilities, time, money, and the many opportunities given to us—have come from the Lord. They have been entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away. These were given to us according to our ability to use—not for our own gain, but for the Lord’s purposes here upon earth. We are like tenant farmers, who, given the use of the land, make their own selection as to the crop they will raise, and they work according to their own skill and desire to work. Some have the ability to sow, cultivate, and raise a bounteous crop, but others are less successful. There are some persons who will work hard and produce, while others, lacking initiative and desire, will fail. The day comes, however, when an accounting must be made” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 271.).

Fourth, “to every one that has shall be given…but from him that has not shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29)

Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have. There is an important lesson here for us. No one can stand still for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you earnestly seek to serve God with the gifts, talents, and graces he has given to you?

“The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service. Those who use their talents find they will grow. One who exercises his strength finds it will increase. If we sow a seed, it will grow; if we fail to plant, it will be lost. One who possesses some insight and is attentive to his teacher will gain more knowledge and insight and will have growth in mind and spiritual understanding. Understanding increases as it is used. As we learn, we acquire greater capacity to learn. As we use our opportunities for knowledge, more opportunities come to us. How sad it is when the opposite course is followed, and talent and capacity are wasted and not used. ‘From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath’ (Matthew 25:29).

Talents are not given to us to be put on display or to be hidden away, but to be used. The Master expects us to make use of them. He expects us to venture forth and increase what we have been given according to our capacities and abilities (see Matthew 25:26-30). As servants of the Lord, we should use every opportunity to employ our talents in his service. To fail to do so means to lose them. If we do not increase, we decrease. Our quest is to seek out the talents the Lord has given us and to develop and multiply them, whether they be five, two, or one. We need not attempt to imitate the talents given to other persons.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 70.) 

Fifth, God rewards those who are faithful, responsible and productive stewards and he punishes those irresponsible, unwise and non-productive stewards. God is not going to judge us by the way we use what we do not possess, but by the use we make of the gifts that are actually our own. When he (Christ) comes, the slothful and unprofitable will be cast out, not because they did not believe, or because they had rebelled, but because they had neglected the opportunities which he had committed to them.  

In connection with the theme of stewardship, the return of the lord in the parable is symbolic of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time there will be an accounting, and those that are found wanting will be cast into outer darkness while the saints enter into the peace and joy of the Lord.

“Imagine what the Judgment will be like for us individually. Suppose that when we meet the Master there is a frown, and He turned and shook His head and turned sadly away. Can you imagine anything that would be quite so discouraging or quite so heartbreaking? There will be nothing so terrifying to the human soul as to be told on resurrection morning that they will have to wait a thousand years before they shall come forth from the grave in resurrection. But imagine instead of that, He smiles, He opens his arms, and says, ‘Come into my presence. You have been faithful in a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.’” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 68.)

All things such as created things, gifts, talents and blessings are God’s, and we must watch over and care for them in honor of Him and in the sanctification of man. Jesus warns us in a parable to be faithful, responsible, and productive stewards , because when he comes again, we will be judged for our stewardship (Lk 12:41-48).  Let us, therefore, make good use of the gifts, talents, time, and resources He gives us for his glory and for every one’s sanctification.  “Be fruitful!” (Gn 1:28)

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Mt 25: 1-13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In Palestine during Jesus’ time, the wedding took place in two stages. The first is betrothal. This was held at the residence of the father of the bride, where the bridegroom presented the marriage contract and bride price to the father and the bride. During this stage the bride remained in her father’s house for almost a year and there is no sexual contact between them until the second part of the wedding when the groom would come for her to bring her home with him. This procession of the wedding party to the house of the groom would signal the beginning of the feasting.

This is the context of the gospel story when the five young, unmarried woman, around twelve years old  at the bridegroom’s house, who went out with their lamps to welcome bridegroom and the bride and the whole procession and to lighten their path, were considered wise virgins. While the other five who were not ready were considered foolish virgins. Here the focus is not the bride but the virgins and their lamps.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins warns us against unreadiness and promises blessings to the watchful, vigilant and ready. While this short parable does not specifically mention Christ’s return, that is its focus.  Those who are ready will be greatly rewarded, and those who are not ready will suffer a great loss of eternal life.

No one knows neither the day nor the hour (see Mt 25:13) when Jesus will return at the end of time as King and Judge both of the living and the dead. And that will be final, definite and absolute. There will be no “last two minutes” as in Basketball. There will be no further time for preparation. There will be no more last chances. Because of this, there are those who will be ready, and those who will not be. The time for preparation is now. Now is the time to procure “oil of good deed.” For Matthew, light is equated with good deeds that are visible to others and that lead to the praise of the heavenly Father (Mt 7:16).  “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven (Mt. 5:16). “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown him by your service to his holy people. Our desire is that each of you show the same zeal till the end, fully assured of that for which you hope” (Hebrews 6:10).

I, therefore, exhort you with this words of St. John of God: “Labour without stopping; do all the good works you can while you still have the time.”

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Mt 6:7-17 The Lord’s Prayer

Just two weeks ago, I received an inspirational text message from a friend. It says, “God always says YES to all our prayers. The YES of God does not always the YES that we want it to be. But it will always be the YES God knows to be the BEST for us!”

Why is it that some of our prayers are left unanswered by God? Rephrasing it differently to be more precise, why is it that some prayers are answered by God but not in the way and time we want them to be?

There are some possible reasons for these. Some do not truly pray at all. Some do not know whom they pray to. Some do not know what to pray. Some do not know how to pray. And some do not do their part in prayer.

It has been said that the secret of the many failures in life is the failure in prayer. Either people do not know to pray or they do not truly pray at all.  Today’s Gospel reminds us of the necessity of prayer and the permanent validity of the teaching of Jesus on prayer:

Going back to the Gospel reading, Jesus ‘was praying at a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’ (Lk 11:1). In response to this request the Lord entrusts to his disciples and to his Church the fundamental Christian prayer originally called the Lord’s prayer and commonly called the “Our Father. There are two versions of the Lord’s prayer in the Gospel. St. Luke presents a brief text of five petitions (Cf. Lk 11:2-4) while St. Matthew gives a more developed version of seven petitions (Cf. Mt 6:9-13). Which of the two the Church has been using in her liturgy and worship? The liturgical tradition of the Church has retained St. Matthew/s text (see CCC 2759).

“In the Our Father, the object of the first three petitions is the glory of the Father: the sanctification of his name, the coming of the kingdom and the fulfillment of his will. The four others present our wants to him: they ask that our lives be nourished, healed of sin and made victorious in the struggle of good over evil” (CCC 2857)

What are the common features and significance between the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer?

First, it teaches us everything that we need to know about prayer. It teaches us the need to pray,  whom to pray, what to pray, how to pray, what to do as our part in prayer.

Second, the Lord’s prayer is the  truly unique: it is “of the Lord”. It is taught and given to us by the Lord Jesus himself who is the master and model of our prayer (see CCC 2765 and 2775).

Thirds, the Lord’s prayer or popularly known as the Our Father “is truly the summary of the  whole Gospel” (Tertullian, De orat. 1: PL 1, 1155).

Fourth, it is “the most perfect prayers…In it we ask, not only for the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them”  (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh. II-II, 83, 9).

If you want to pray well and live well accordingly, read, study and pray the Lord’s prayer. Pray with Jesus as your model Pray-er, pray with the Lord’s prayer as your model prayer.

Let us, therefore, pray with confidence to our Father the prayer taught to us by Christ himself. “Praying to our Father should develop in us the will to become like Him, and foster in us a humble and trusting heart” (CCC 2800). Pray to our Father to unite our will to that of his Son, so as to fulfill his plan of salvation in the life of the world.

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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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