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THE DEMANDS OF THE LAW AND OF LOVE

Father Francis's picture
Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

2 Cor. 3:4-11 & Mt. 5:17-19

“The written letters bring death, but the Spirit gives life.” In these words Saint Paul is contrasting the New and the Old Law: he has just left Judaism where almost everything he did was regulated by the written law. Their regulations were numberless, and whether people understood them or not, they were expected to observe each of them. This law was to be observed not as the individual saw it but according to the interpretation of their lawyers. Even if they understood the written law it did not give them the strength to follow it. But the New Law, symbolized by the 'Spirit' giving life by allowing freedom of choice, instructs people in truth and, above all, gives them the necessary strength to do it.

Jesus proclaimed that He had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it. Christians have sadly often failed to acknowledge their debt to Israel and the Jewish nation and have even persecuted the Jews. Yet, it was to Israel that God gave the law and His great promises, and God remains faithful to His people. Though the old law was superseded, this is not because it was wrong, but because it was inadequate to bring people to salvation.

The one aim of the Scribes and Pharisees was to satisfy the demands of the Law. 'I have done all that the law demands, my duty is discharged, the law has no more claim over me' was their aim but Christianity does not work that way. The prime motive is to fulfil the demands of love, the one desire to show the utmost gratitude for the love which God the Father has shown through Christ. A Christian could say that it is not possible to satisfy the claims of love. If we love someone with all our hearts, we are bound to feel that even if we gave a lifetime's service offering the sun, the moon and the stars, we would still not have offered enough! For love ‘the whole realm of nature is an offering too small.’

The Jew aimed to satisfy the law of God; and to the demands of the law there is a limit. The Christian aims to show gratitude for the love of God, and to the claim of love there is no limit in time nor eternity.

Jesus set before us, not the law of God but the love of God. Long ago St. Augustine said that the Christian life can be summed up in one phrase “Love God, and do what you like”. When we realise how God has loved us, the one desire of life is to answer to that love, and that is the greatest task in the world. It makes the Christian realise that there is no limit to their love.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for showing us how to love with no limits. Help us to realise that there can be no limit to our love.

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