Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:17-19
17 "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9
1 "And now, O Israel, give heed to the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them; that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, gives you. 5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, `Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day? 9 "Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children
Meditation: Do you view God's law negatively or positively? Jesus' attitude towards the law of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." For the people of Israel the "law" could refer to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The "law" also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus' time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law. It placed burdens on people which God had not intended. Jesus, however, made it very clear that the essence of God's law - his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled.
Jesus taught reverence for God's law - reverence for God himself, for the Lord's Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person's good name, respect for oneself and for one's neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master us. Reverence and respect for God's commandments teach us the way of love - love of God and love of neighbor.
The transforming work of the Holy Spirit
What is impossible to men and women is possible to God and those who put their faith and trust in God. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit the Lord transforms us and makes us like himself. We are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) because "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). God gives us the grace to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think as he thinks, and to act as he acts.
The Lord loves justice and goodness and he hates every form of wickedness and sin. He wants to set us free from our unruly desires and sinful habits, so that we can choose to live each day in the peace, joy, and righteousness of his Holy Spirit (Romans 14: 17). To renounce sin is to turn away from what is harmful and destructive for our minds and hearts, and our very lives. As his followers we must love and respect his commandments and hate every form of sin. Do you love and revere the commands of the Lord?
"Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words and deeds may be according to your Father's law and thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help."
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God,
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your sons within you.
15 He sends forth his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the LORD!
A Daily Quote for Lent: Making daily progress towards God, by Augustine of Hippo, 430-543 A.D.
"As Christians, our task is to make daily progress toward God. Our pilgrimage
on earth is a school in which God is the only teacher, and it demands good
students, not ones who play truant. In this school we learn something every
day. We learn something from the commandments, something from examples,
and something from Sacraments. These things are remedies for our wounds
and materials for our studies." (excerpt from Sermon 16A,1)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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