Most of the Eucharistic readings this week pick up on the theme set on Sunday; the Commandments and behavior related to those commandments.
Today that theme continues with Jesus saying that he has no intention of abolishing the Law or the Prophets, but of fulfilling them. Then Jesus went on to say, “I tell you … not one letter, not one stroke of a letter will pass from the law, until all is accomplished.” (Mt. 5:18)
Elsewhere in the Gospels we find Jesus showing a more merciful and just interpretation of the law than the narrow interpretations of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
One example of this was when the Pharisees complained that Jesus’ disciples were breaking the Sabbath law by plucking heads of grain when they were walking through a grain field. This was counted by the Pharisees as laboring on the Sabbath day, prohibited by the law. Jesus responded by reminding them that the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath. (Mk 2:27)
This example and others like it show that Jesus was not concerned about small details. He was more concerned because he knew that the purposes of the law were to show mercy, to do justice, and to lead to a deeper and better understanding of the love of God.
What Jesus taught were the virtues that came from the Law of Love; “Love God and love one another.” We can find references to that more often in the Books of the Prophets than in the Books of Moses.
In the Book of Micah we find words that could have come out of Jesus’ mouth, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
When we read the newspapers today we sometimes wonder if much progress has really been made. I think we have come a long way. But there is still further to go before there is much real understanding of the mercy and love of God.
To end this sermon on a lighter note, I want to end it with a story. There was a man who was known to be very conscientious. He began to suffer greatly from headaches. He finally went to a doctor to try to get an answer. The doctor asked him if he was experiencing tension in his work. He answered, “No, not much of the time.” Was he experiencing tension at home? Again he answered, “No, not very much.” Then he asked if there was some other place where he experienced tension. The man said, “Yes, at church. These days some of the young people dress really very casually. And only a few of them bow to the Cross when they come into the church, or observe the same customs I was taught when I was young.” The doctor said, “Aha! I think I have found your problem. I think that your halo is too tight!”
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