Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
As one biblical scholar says, the Old Testament was like an unfinished symphony waiting for Christ to come and bring everything together. That’s what Jesus himself describes in the Gospel today, taken from the Sermon on the Mount.
He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” He was coming to respond to all of the Old Covenant hopes, to be the “Yes” to all God’s promises, even the littlest:” He would do this not just by his words but also by his example.
He came to proclaim the Gospel, to give witness to the truth, and to enflesh that truth in such a way that he could say to us, “Follow me!”
He has opened for us the owner’s manual about the human being, the world he created and the way we’re supposed to connect with Him. It’s a great blessing to receive this gift. That’s why it’s essential for us to live in that gift and pass it on to others. That’s why Jesus says in the Gospel that the greatest in his kingdom are those who observe his commandments and teach others to do the same.
When we pass on the teaching to the next generations, we are giving them the privilege, with us, to draw close to God, to experience his merciful teaching and to be blessed in manifold ways through it. If we fail to do so, we’re distancing ourselves from that communion with God and from his mercy — and dragging others with us.
Everything is meant to help us to love God and love others, something that those who look at the law as a burden don’t grasp. Since Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of love, that’s why he would add: “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
The greatest in the kingdom loves and teaches others to love. The least is one who doesn’t love and through that shows the face of darkness.
Jesus wants us to be a doer and teacher of the word! That is the path to greatness in his kingdom. We don’t get a “pass” from the law by living according to the Spirit as “spiritual” people rather than “religious.” We don’t get great by seeking to win human respect through watering down the challenging parts of the Gospel to suit modern tastes.
In these days, when political passion runs rampant and political polemic never ceases, we need to step aside and ask where are we in that discourse. To be positioned on either side (or sides) is natural. To feel strongly about a perspective is part of living in a society where that freedom exists. But how do we express that? But what are the words chosen to characterize another who doesn’t believe as we do? Even more grievous, what are the actions which flow from those words? Do our answers to those questions belong in His kingdom of love?
The totality of the law of love can only be fulfilled when each of us steps forward to embrace it and actualize it in our lives. In effect, you and I are the missing pieces to its fulfillment on earth.
There is no created being in the universe that is outside the law of love that Jesus came to teach us. There is no being, not even the smallest, that escapes the demand of this law.
At times the world seems darker than yesterday but those are the very days we should grasp his two greatest commands of loving God and loving neighbor. It is only through our giving and passing on that love that a day grows brighter.
Yet, we fail time and again. Perhaps we have not truly actualized in our lives the implications of that law. Perhaps we have not truly understood the implications of that law. His words are clear enough:
“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
The greatest in the kingdom loves and teaches others to love. The least is the one who rejects His law and fails to love. Which piece are you?
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus Christ, give us the passion to obey Your commandments and teach them to others. Help us to continually become the salt and the Light of the World so that our actions and deeds may become good examples that glorify the Name of our Lord”.
Jesus speaks to us about how he has come to fulfill the law and how we will become great in his kingdom through participation in that fulfillment and helping others to do so. While Jesus wasn’t going to let the smallest part of a letter pass away, he also wasn’t going to get us to focus first on the smallest part of the letter — as many of his contemporaries did — but on the big, bold headlines that oriented every letter and every part of the letter: how God’s law is all about loving God with all we are and have, and loving our neighbor as totally as God has loved us. That’s what the law is and Jesus was coming to fulfill it.