Sunday, February 24, 2008
"I have come not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17)
The Jews have recognized the Torah—the “law,” or “instruction” contained in the first five books of the Bible—as nothing less than the very revelation of God. It revealed his intimate thoughts about himself and about the sacred way of life he was offering to his people. In centuries past, when the question was asked, “What is God doing in heaven?” the rabbis routinely answered: “Reading Torah!”
How did Jesus view the Torah? He told his followers that he was sent from the Father to fulfill the law, to bring it to fruition. That is why his Sermon on the Mount focuses on the “heart” or “inner intention” behind the ancient commandments. For example, Jesus explained that it’s not enough to avoid doing physical harm to one’s neighbor. If we are to love from the heart, we must learn to live in peace with our neighbor as well. Again, it’s not enough to avoid stealing and committing adultery. We need to do away with the desire to possess what rightfully belongs to someone else.
Even as he raised the requirements of God’s commands, Jesus didn’t paint a picture of God as a stern judge eager to punish our every sin. God loves us, and invites us to embrace his love. He wants to change us by the power of his Spirit so that we can love what he loves and so that we can turn away from what is sinful.
God’s love is a consuming fire. It burns away our evil desires and fills us with a longing to please him and to lay down our lives in humble service of one another. St. Augustine once said, “Fulfill the commandments out of love. Could anyone refuse to love our God, so abounding in mercy, so just in all his ways? Could anyone deny love to him who first loved us despite all our injustice and all our pride?” Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to purify our thoughts and fill our hearts with God’s love. Then we will begin to desire only what is pleasing to God.
image: The Word Among Us