The Law of Liberty

Lectio Divina: 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

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1) The law[1] and its fulfillment[2].

     In today’s Gospel Jesus says that he wants to bring » to fulfillment the Law and the Prophets»[3] (Mt 5:17). In fact, the Christ, the Word made flesh for love of us, is not only the Word of the Law, namely the Way through which we have to go, but it is also the Truth that fulfills the law, and the Life that rewards its accomplishment.

    What is then the “fulfillment” of the law? Fulfilling of the law is obedience to the commandment of love (cf. Rm 13: 9-10). Obedience becomes the sign that one lives under the grace of love. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), because love does not replace the law, but complies with it and “accomplishes” it.

     Indeed, love is the only force that can really observe the law. We can say even more: » Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, as he fulfills its authentic meaning by the total gift of himself: He himself becomes a living, personal «[4] and bright law.

     Already Psalm 19 compares the law of God to the light of the sun, when it says that «the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye» (19: 9).

     The Book of Proverbs also states that “the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light “(6:23).           Finally, we must not forget that Jesus himself presents his person as the definitive revelation using the same image «I am the light of the world whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life» (Jn 8: 12), namely the light of love. Christ is the Light without which we can walk only groping around. He is the Light that makes us know ourselves, understand the world and know where to go.

     Walking in the light of Christ means taking up our daily cross and receive peace. Peace of heart is the strength of the believer: if we are steadfast in obeying the commands of God, our perseverance will be source of happiness.

     Let’s  pray to our Father in Heaven that Christ , our Law [5],  may enlighten our hearts, fortify our souls and give us the wisdom of the simple so that we can always walk in His light, even when there are difficulties , troubles and dangers.

     Jesus didn’t begin to preach, saying, » Repent and believe the gospel so that the Kingdom may come to you «. He began by saying: » The kingdom of God has come among you: repent and believe the gospel.» Not first conversion then salvation, but first the gift of salvation and then conversion.

     In Christianity there are duties and commandments, but the plan of the commandments, including the greatest of all that is to love God and the neighbor, is not the first plan, but the second one. Before it there is the plan of the gift, the plan of grace. “We love because he first loved us “(1 Jan 4:19). It is from the gift that the duty flows, not vice versa.

2) The law is a gift.

     Christ tells us not only «what to do «, but “who we should be,» and therefore teaches us how we should live to realize the communion in the love for God and for our brothers and sisters. With the observance of the commandments we obey with love to the law that is rooted in the love of God and that indicates the will of God to rule our lives with his command of charity. With this observance to the law of freedom we become more «human», making shining in us the image and likeness of God who created us for the life with Him.

     The law is the word of God that indicates his desire for life. Jesus is the first that has fulfilled this will, which is a gift that God gives us to live as new people in love. The one who loves fulfills the law, the journey of life, being always observing it.

      Saying that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, Jesus intends to take away the fear of punishment and to root us in confident love. He is the Man and knows the man, understanding his weakness. He knows that a law imposed by fear of punishment is fulfilled, we can say, three times out of ten. He also knows that a law that guarantees a prize is observed seven times out of ten. He wants to help us to observe it ten times out of ten. As a good older brother He reminds us that not only the law was given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai among thunder and lightning, but it came from the Thought of God, who gave it to us thanks to his Love and proclaimed it with his Word.  Jesus, the Man who has God as Father, teaches us that holiness is not a «job» for a few, but the vocation of all the baptized.

     Holiness is not separation from the everyday life and from the daily toil to live, but to live in the trust and confidence as children do in their mother’s arms.

     A significant example is that of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. What did this woman that we cannot do? This small, great Saint answered to love as a young woman of 24 years can do. She didn’t do great things[6].

     The greatness of our actions depends on the faith we have in His love. Let’s imitate Little Teresa, who believed with the certainty of being loved by God. She shook the Heaven with her «simple, small” acts of love, with a smile, with another step in the garden, with the offer of its pain due to bone cancer so that a missionary might have the strength to return to the path of evangelization.

     Even her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Martin , lived like little Therese Martin of the Child Jesus and I think that they taught the lifestyle that the Carmelite Saint traveled as the » little way» . The little way of the spiritual childhood of Therese of Lisieux requires the pure and poor heart of a simple person like little Therese who knew how to stand empty-handed before God, without any hold except “trust and nothing else than trust”.  Holiness and happiness are also a possible goal for us; it is “enough» to live every moment of our daily life offering it to God

     This lifestyle is practiced in particular by the consecrated Virgins, who are simple women that express their talents in dedication to God and in service to others in their everyday lives. It is in the daily donation that these women can see their deepest vocation to take charge of life, even where no human eye but only the eyes of God sees.

     The Ordo Virginum is a gift to the Church of today, to make visible the Kingdom of God among us. These women are called to “do the ordinary extraordinarily well “because the consecrated virginity in the world has no operational defined tasks if not the clear and courageous testimony of the Gospel in every environment. They give themselves completely to God while remaining in the world. They have as a distinctive sign to show the compassion of God which is manifested by their discreet presence. This presence that donates itself, allows others to meet the Presence, which is a gift.

     Their life testifies that not only we can do to others what we want done to us, but to do to others what God does in us , loving with clean and vigorous love. The law of love is not giving a lot or a little, but to give with a lot of love. With the mouth we talk ,  with the eyes we see , with the hands we do; with the consecrated life the mouth speaks words of praise to God , the eyes contemplate the love of God and the hands come together to pray to God and open to donate.

Roman Rite – VI Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 16, 2014

Sir 15:15-20, Ps 119, 1 Cor 2:6 to-10: Mt 5: 17- 37

The new law

Ambrosian Rite – VI Sunday after the Epiphany

1Sam 21: 2 -6a. 7ab Ps 43 (42): 1. 3-5: Mt 12: 9b -21

The law is for man


Patristic Reading

From a commentary on the Diatesseron

by Saint Ephrem, deacon

(1, 18-19: SC 121, 52-53)

God’s word is an inexhaustible spring of life

“Lord, who can comprehend even one of your words. We loose more of it than we grasp, like those who drink from a living spring. For God’s word offers different facets according to the capacity of the listener, and the Lord has portrayed his message in many colors, so that whoever gazes upon it can see in it what suits him. Within it he has buried manifold treasures, so that each of us might grow rich in seeking them out.The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. As the Apostle says: They ate spiritual food and they drank spiritual drink.And so whenever anyone discovers some part of the treasure, he should not think that he has exhausted God’s word. Instead he should feel that this is all that he was able to find of the wealth contained in it. Nor should he say that the word is weak and sterile or look down on it simply because this portion was all that he happened to find. But precisely because he could not capture it all he should give thanks for its riches.Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty man is happy when he is drinking, and he is not depressed because he cannot exhaust the spring. So let this spring quench your thirst, and not you thirst the spring. For from it you can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring, then when you thirst again you can drink from it once more; but if when your thirst is sated the spring is also dried up, then your victory would turn to your own harm.Be thankful then for what you have received, and do not be saddened at all that such an abundance still remains. What you have received and attained is your present share, while what is left will be your heritage. For what you could not take at one time because of your weakness, you will be able to grasp at another if you only persevere. So do not foolishly try to drain in one draught what cannot be consumed all at once, and do not cease out of faintheartedness from what you will be able to absorb as time goes on.”

[1] It is important to remember that the Law (Torah in Hebrew) for Israel is not a set of rules, as we understand it. First of all it is a gift that God has given to his people in order to make known his saving will. In Hebrew Torah comes from the verb to educate (yrh) with particular reference to the education transmitted by the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and by extension then attributed to the whole of Scripture. Of course, this gift is practical one, involves concrete actions to be performed, and then the Greek translation nomos is correct.

[2] The fulfillment that Jesus brought to this Law may be understood with reference to: a) his personal behavior (he has observed the precepts of the Law), b) his role as a fulfillment of the Scriptures, highlighted by St. Matthew (see Chapters 1-2 and other passages), c) to the extent of his teaching as expressed in the commandment of love (cf. Mt 22:40) from which all the others derive strength and meaning.

[3]  The Law and the Prophets were the first two major parts of the Hebrew Bible (the third part consists of the Psalms; by extension, they indicate the entire Old Testament and it is in this sense that St. Matthew uses it (cf. 7:12; 11:13; 22:40).

[4] Blessed John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 15

[5] The Torah is the Messiah himself, it is Jesus. In it what in the tablets of stone of Sinai is really essential and permanent is now written in living flesh: the twofold commandment of love, which finds expression in the «feeling» that were in Jesus (Phil. 2:5). (J. Ratzinger, The Church, Israel and the religions of the world, Rome 1967, p 74)

[6] But then what things are really great before God? What is the difference between what Francis Xavier did and what the little Teresa did? Each difference is less in front of the infinite greatness of God’s. The life and the greatness of a person are nothing before God. Instead, what makes great the act of man is that every act reaches a God who loves him.

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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