Daily Reflection
March 14th, 2007

Chas Kestermeier, S.J.

English Department
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Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
Psalm 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
Matthew 5:17-19

As humans we really like to have some aspects of our lives as clear as possible, especially such things as our debts and our responsibilities. Today's Gospel reading addresses that desire and puts it in its place, a place which is not the one which we would ordinarily ask for.

Jesus speaks of how he does not plan on abolishing the Law, of how every letter and every smallest part of each letter must be fulfilled: our duty should be clear then, since the laws (or the Law) of the Old Testament are written fairly clearly and have been carefully interpreted by rabbinical scholars over the centuries.

But is our role actually that clear? As it happens, the Church simply does not follow the laws or Law of the Old Testament in the way that Jesus seems to imply that we should, and far from it.

I suspect that Jesus curiously insists on the letter of the Law but actually means what seems to be the contrary, the spirit of the Law: this spirit of the Law is not the contrary or opposite of the literal meaning but simply what gives life to the written and explicit form. I would say that the letter and the spirit (Spirit) are in a creative tension that gives life to those who seek God in a true, serious, and real manner.

Here in Lent we ourselves must have that same struggle: is our religious life, our relationship to God, a matter of clear and specific obligations that we can accomplish and dismiss, becoming satisfied and justified by our own efforts? Or is it a matter of embracing the Spirit, of always going further, seeking a greater light and life in God, yearning for a more personal, ongoing, and interactive relationship, and always getting to know, love, and serve God more generously and perfectly?

I believe that this is what Christ calls us to here: perfect fulfillment of the Law means that we need to follow the Spirit with prayer, fasting, humility, and a readiness to do not only more but better.

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