On Christ and the "Fullness" of the Law

“What Is This Superior Justice That He Demands?”

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel reading for this Sunday’s liturgy continues Jesus’ so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” which occupies chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel. After the Beatitudes, which are his program of life, Jesus proclaims the new law, his Torah, as our Jewish brothers call it. In effect, the Messiah, at his coming, would have also brought the definitive revelation of the law, and this is precisely what Jesus declares: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to bring about their full completion.” And, to his disciples, he adds: “If your justice does not go beyond that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17, 20). But in what does this “fullness” of the Law of Christ consist? And what is this “superior” justice that he demands?

Jesus explains this through a series of antitheses between the ancient commandments and his way of reproposing them. Each time he begins by saying: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors…,” and then he says: “But I say to you… .” For example: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors: ‘Do not kill; whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you: whoever gets angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). And so it goes seven times. 

This way of speaking surprised the people, who were frightened since that “I tell you” was equivalent to assuming for himself the authority of God, the source of the Law. The newness of Christ essentially consists in the fact that he “fulfills” the commandments with the love of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in him. And we, through faith in Christ, can open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who makes us capable of living divine love. Thus, every precept becomes true as a demand of love, and they all are summed up in a single commandment: Love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself. 

“Charity is the fullness of the Law,” St. Paul writes (Romans 13:10). In the face of this demand, for example, the sad case of the four Roma children who died last week on the outskirts of this city when their shack caught fire, makes us ask ourselves whether or not are a more solidary and fraternal society, more consistent in love, that is, more Christian, might not have been able to prevent such a tragic event. And this question applies to many other sad events, known and unknown, that occur daily in our cities and our countries.

Dear friends, perhaps it is not by chance that Jesus’ first important occasion of preaching is called the “Sermon on the Mount”! Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to receive the Law of God and bring it to the chosen people. Jesus is the very Son of God who descended from heaven to take us to heaven, to the height of God, along the path of love. Indeed, he himself is this way: we must do nothing other than follow him, to put God’s will into practice and enter into his Kingdom, in the eternal life. One creature has already arrived at the summit of the mountain: the Virgin Mary. Thanks to her union with Jesus, her justice was perfect: This is why we call her “Speculum justitiae” (Mirror of Justice). Let us entrust ourselves to her that she might guide our steps in fidelity to the Law of Christ.

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. “Immense is the wisdom of the Lord”, we hear proclaimed in our liturgy today. As the Blessed Virgin Mary entrusted her entire life to that wisdom, may we too place our lives completely under the guidance of God’s law of love. Entrusting you to Mary’s motherly care, I invoke upon you and your families God’s blessings of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2011 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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