6th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Spirit of the Law

02-12-2023Weekly ReflectionFr. Bing Colasito

Mt 5:17-37
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues to calm the fears of the religious leaders that He is out to abolish the laws. But He reminds them that the LAW must not remain engraved in stone tablets but must live in the hearts of men. The LAW must be observed not only according to the intent of the letter; but by its SPIRIT. The demands to live by the SPIRIT as to simply imposing the letter of the LAW takes higher importance. Because the former requires an honest, selfless, and patient pursuit of the truths of God in prayer, asking the help of the Holy Spirit for inner freedom, creativity, and intelligence.

I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Through the religious leaders had a sigh of relief hearing this kind of statement from Jesus: it did not keep them from sending spies to monitor Jesus’ movements, activities, and teachings. Thus, it did not help to allay their fears every time reports of Jesus healing on a Sabbath reached them. Or their belief of the many infractions against the LAW committed by Jesus: allowing His disciples to pick grains on a Sabbath, touching lepers, and acquitting a woman caught in adultery is too much for the Law oriented Jewish leaders! But in Jesus’ heart, He pities the ordinary Jewish believers who try their best to live by the Ten Commandments but are burdened by the 613 rules imposed by their leaders side by side with the Decalogue. Before He leaves, He will identify the greatest commandment for them: The LOVE of God and neighbor together and teach them to accomplish them together.

The law of God directs and gives guidance so that we can avoid falling into grave sins, intended to be fulfilled not by external observances or by simply avoiding sins. The true SPIRIT of the LAW calls for a conversion of the heart. The way of Jesus is the way of pure and faithful LOVE to transform untamed hearts; and the way of honesty to address any duplicity in a person. Jesus teaches us the way of God’s wisdom, a mysterious and hidden wisdom that only through Him is revealed to us. Because God reveals His WISDOM through the Holy Spirit, He made sure that the heart understands His Divine Love. Psalm 119 celebrates this of all who treasure this gift in their hearts: Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord.

Let us go beyond the demands of the letters of the law and move toward the spirit of the law. Being too legalistic leads us to be controlling, calculating, judgmental and impersonal. Let us live not according to the letter of the law but according to the spirit of the law. The love of God is broader, deeper, and inclusive so let us not limit His love according to our laws, traditions, and standards. Mere adherence to the law does not excuse us from practicing true righteousness. Antoine de Saint Exupéry says in the story of The Little Prince that somehow captures this idea: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Kingdoms of the world operate, live, and thrive on human laws. The Kingdom of God also operates, lives, and prospers on human laws; but goes beyond > because of the natural law and His Divine Law. If we are strict, unbending, and uncompromising, we live only by human law. The coming of Jesus redefined the parameters of laws: beyond justice, beyond the law, is love. Beyond The Decalogue is Jesus’ commandment of LOVE. May we have no regrets that we focused more on the work of our hands and somehow forgot the love in our hearts or that we focused more on our functions and neglected to love people.

Lord, help us to live with a heart and not to belittle matters of the heart.