Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not Abolished... but Fulfilled.

As many of you know, I began my walk in life not as a Catholic but as a Baptist.  During those early years as a Christian I went through several different churches.   All along I would call myself baptist, but I attended a Church of God, a Pentecostal church, a holiness church, etc.   Yesterday I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of that journey.   "Get in line right behind me, you along with everybody, thinking there is worth in what you do." (Flawless - MercyMe)   It is a catchy tune, but a little iffy on the theology.  That was kind of the message I got throughout all those churches though.  Nothing I did mattered. Jesus had done it all on the cross.  So why do anything at all?   I fell into the free grace routine and for a while I did things I never thought I would do, all because I had been told "once saved, always saved."

Moses in this mornings first reading tells the people that he is presenting to them the laws of God.   Then he goes on to say that to choose to follow them, we choose life.  That's not a popular thing to hear these days is it?   That life is found when we give up our 'freedom.'   True freedom doesn't come by just doing whatever we want, by just giving into our emotions and feelings.   True freedom comes when we can choose to do good regardless of what we feel or want.   It comes in being able to go through the day fasting even though our body says it's hungry.   In running into a fire to save a child even though it's burning us or fear wants us to run the other way.   It's in telling the truth even though we are scared of the consequences, even if it might cause our own death.   That's freedom... the other option is slavery.  Slavery to our emotions.  Slavery to our desires.  Slavery to our hormones.  Slavery to our sin. Addiction even.  Habit.

CCC 592 Jesus did not abolish the Law of Sinai, but rather fulfilled it (cf. Mt 5:17-19) with such perfection (cf. Jn 8:46) that he revealed its ultimate meaning (cf.: Mt 5:33) and redeemed the transgressions against it (cf. Heb 9:15).

Jesus in the Gospel does not say that we are free to do whatever we want.   He says rather that he "did not come to abolish the law and the prophets."   Instead he says he "came to fulfill them."  He perfected the Law by obtaining the grace to imbue every action with his very love.   Later in that same text he goes on to say "You have heard it said... but I say to you."   In each of those statements he doesn't relax a single commandment, he increases the difficulty of living them in the Christian life.   We aren't just to not kill, most of us can avoid that... but to avoid even getting angry at someone.   Not just to not commit adultery.. but to not even look at someone with lust or think thoughts that would lead us to that.    To not steal is often not a problem, but he reminds us that it's so much more.. not to even be jealous of someone else's possessions or to hoard things that others might be able to use.

I've learned over the years that there is worth in what I have done.   It's not a perfect offering, that's true.   All good that I do comes from the grace of God.   Yet, God has chosen to work through us as his hands and his feet.   We are the body of Christ and we offer up a living sacrifice to God through our works and our deeds.   That's what the Mass is all about.   When we say those words "May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and Glory of his name, and the good of all His Holy Church,"  we are uniting our sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary!   All those works we have done, all the penance we have accomplished, all the love we have shared in the world... is joined to Christ and made perfect!  It's like an analogy I heard in a Bible study with Father Michael Gaitley... we offer a simple apple to our teacher.. and that's nice.. but Christ's offering turns that apple into something more beautiful... places it on a golden platter and carries it into the heavenly throne room as if it were worth millions!  As Saint James so eloquently puts it, "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith."  (James 2:18 RSV-CE)

CCC 1968 The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord's Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity.

Yes, everything is through the grace of God including our salvation.   Without Christ and the cross we are not able to do anything at all that will get us to Heaven.   God has given us a task though.   He has given us grace but expects us to make use of it, not to let it sit empty.   It's not faith alone.. it's not works alone.. it's both and... Faith.. works.. baptism... grace.. and all of it boils down to love.   That's how Christ fulfilled the law.. by showing what the law was unable to accomplish... an interior change... a movement of the will... a drop from the head to the heart.  This Lenten season make use of the Sacraments to draw closer to that.   Let God through the graces He offers in His Church transform you, and get anything holding you back out of the way!

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Mass on Wednesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time: March 22, 2017