Jesus always calls us to MORE – more joy, more peace, more love. And he tells us how to receive this: he calls us to more love, more trust, more generous self-sacrifice, more letting go.
The Chosen People were called to live in ways that were counter-cultural in order to be a sign to the nations that there is one God, a Supreme God, Creator of all, and we must love that God with our whole heart and soul and strength (the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5). In order to make sure they lived within the parameters of chosen people, God gave them rules (the 10 Commandments) and prophetic wisdom (the Wisdom books) and an understanding of history with an eternal perspective (the Pentateuch). And the elders of the chosen people pondered all this and worked out ways to live within those parameters in a world that did not observe the rules, and they wrote down their understandings and insights and instituted laws about everything from working to washing to worshipping. Many laws. Hundreds of laws. More laws than any regular person could keep track of or observe faithfully.
And Jesus tells his disciples that actually, these hundreds of laws don’t go far enough! Why? Because they don’t go deep enough. The laws were intended to guide people to correct behavior, but they were unable to change anyone’s heart. The laws led some people to strict observance in order to keep a firm grip of themselves and keep them from straying from the path of righteousness. But Jesus tells them that the actual observance of the law must happen deep within us, at the very place where we let go of ourselves in order to embrace the other.
So the Law remains (Jesus “did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it”!), but its full meaning is revealed in the life of Christ. We certainly should not kill, as we have no right to take another’s life. But the full meaning of respecting the life of another is to refrain from unrighteous anger, or name-calling, or holding grudges and withholding forgiveness! In tomorrow’s Gospel, we will hear the same kind of unfolding of another law: we certainly should not commit adultery, but the full meaning of the covenant of marriage is to control any distracting or lustful looking or thinking, and to direct our energy toward our commitment to full, faithful, and fruitful family life.
What Jesus came to reveal is that the full meaning of the law is LOVE – love of God, and love of others. We must learn to let go of our “grabbing” so that we can learn to GIVE lovingly and generously, from the heart, respecting others and trusting in the gift of grace. We must learn to love others as Jesus loves us! Only then do we begin to understand the full meaning of the laws of God, and then, at last, we can receive more peace, more love, and the fullness of joy.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com
Feature Image Credit: James Healy, unsplash.com/photos/0NFvQFbJ6kI