1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Jesus Christ, the Fulfillment of God’s Law and Prophets
As a set of moral values, beliefs and tenets, the Constitution of the United States serves not only to form the national American identity of U.S. citizens, but also to guide their right practice of civil law as they look to protect their national human rights. In effect, the Constitutional Federal Law is meant to secure the Commonwealth of the States, not to revoke their own laws. By the same token, Matthew’s Gospel has been introducing us for the past two Sundays to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which he begins by giving us the Beatitudes as a set of evangelical virtues and bearings that constitute the Christian identity of his disciples. Afterwards Jesus preaches on the metaphors of salt and light, the vitals of our Christian faith that give us the dual sense of evangelical vision and mission, which are necessary for us to preach and witness to the gospel. Thus, we come to the point in today’s gospel where Jesus explains his ethical interpretation and execution of the law and the prophets, the guiding principles of our Judeo-Christian tradition that are to draw us close to God and to help us work together for the common good.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." For not even "the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." Matthew presents Jesus as Moses, the ancient Prophet of the TORAH, the Righteous One of Israel who fulfills the New Covenant and establishes God’s heavenly kingdom on earth. In such metaphoric language, Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that his messianic mission occurs within the ethical and eschatological framework of the law and the prophets, for his pastoral ministry gives them the life-giving meaning and purpose of God’s mercy and justice. Thereby, to explain the commandments of the law, Jesus introduces six antitheses, four of which appear in today’s gospel, with the phrases: "You have heard that it was said. . . But I say to you." The new covenant does not change but perfects the old, because Jesus interprets it, not in human terms but with divine wisdom, as "God predetermined before the ages for our glory" (second reading) and the salvation of humankind (first reading).
Biblically speaking, how do we, like Jesus, come to fulfill the law and the prophets in our lives? For Paul, who eagerly addresses the Corinthian community, we do it by speaking God’s mysterious wisdom which "God has prepared for those who love him…[and]… revealed to us through the Spirit." For Matthew, it is about obeying and teaching the commandments without imitating the scrupulous, legalistic attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees. That is why, as "the Lord of glory" whose "Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God," and whose "righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees," Jesus speaks divine wisdom (second reading) in order to help us understand and strengthen our relationship with God and one another. He thus instructs us "in the way of [God’s] statutes, that [we] may exactly observe them" (psalm). For, as the Book of Sirach suggests, we are humanly capable of keeping the commandments and trusting in God, though we need the scrutinizing wisdom of God’s Spirit, "who is mighty in power, and all-seeing," in order to choose life over death, and good over evil, and thus give meaning and purpose to our human existence and our spiritual life.
Today’s Scripture readings invite us to reflect on our human capacity for and commitment to fulfilling the commandments of divine law. Do we really believe and trust in God’s covenanting promises? Do we live up to the sacred mysteries we profess and celebrate in our Roman Catholic tradition? Do we take for granted or treasure what Jesus teaches us in today’s gospel and the Eucharistic doxology acclaims in the honor and glory we give to God’s Holy Trinity? For it is "through him, and with him, and in him" that we come to fulfill the law and the prophets and to glorify God’s Holy Trinity in our lives. For thus says the Lord: "Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!" by acting justly and treating each other as sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus.
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.