Not to abolish but to fulfill

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014


IN THIS Sunday’s gospel in Matthew 5:17-37 Jesus declares that he has come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them. He gave as examples the Old Covenant teachings on murder, adultery, divorce and oaths.

In effect the LORD said that what is punishable before God is not only the taking of another man’s life; despising another human being by calling him a fool is also a sin that puts one at the risk of hell.

Adultery, in Jesus’ definition, is not only confined to sexual relations with someone not your spouse; simply looking at a woman with a lustful intent is already committing adultery with her in your heart.

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Divorce, he said, is not as simple as giving a certificate to that effect, as practiced by the people of long ago. Rather, anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Jesus also noted the Old Covenant precept of keeping oaths made to God, against all cost. In the New Testament, perhaps noting how oaths were easily broken or abused to hide a lie, he taught the people not to swear at all but to be truthful by letting their ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and their ‘no’ be ‘no.’

In this gospel what was the core of Jesus’ message?

The core of the message was for Christian conduct to be governed beyond the letter of the Law but by its spirit. God gave us commandments to follow, not by blind compliance or legalism, but in the name of love.

We do not worship idols. We do not misuse the name of the LORD. We keep the LORD’s day holy. Why? Because we love God.

We honor our father and mother. We do not murder. We do not commit adultery. We do not steal. We do not give false testimony against our neighbor. We do not covet what belongs to others. Why? Because we love our fellowmen, and loving them means loving God who created them as well.

What Jesus abolished were the animal sacrifices, and the various feasts, rituals and ceremonies of the Old Testament. These were only shadows of the better things that came later. When Jesus came, he offered himself as the one, true and perfect sacrifice once and for all for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the world. On his cross were nailed all the curses with which man is penalized for disobeying the Law, things that could have been unavoidable because of human imperfection. But thanks be to God, Jesus, the perfect man and the perfect God, took all the curses for our transgressions. In doing so, he fulfilled the Law by conquering it with his love.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on February 13, 2014.

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