This reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Feb. 16, 2014:
In today’s Gospel (at least, in the long version) Jesus says to us “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come 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.” Some Christians think that Jesus came to try and essentially “usurp” the Old Law–to try and change it around. They think that the “New” Law is “new” as in “separate” from the Old. They like to think of the “Old” Law as being “old, gone, and hopefully forgotten.” One of their favorite reasons for doing this is to try and justify sins such as homosexuality.
This reasoning obviously doesn’t make sense–especially from any kind of “Christian” perspective. First of all, Jesus Himself says that it isn’t true. Furthermore, Jesus is God–an equal member of the Holy Trinity. We usually tend to think of the “God” of the Old Testament as being exclusively “God the Father.” However, He was also “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit.” They are three, but They are also one; all three have existed infinitely, all three are responsible for the creation of time and the universe. All three exist outside of time, and all three (including Jesus, the Son) are responsible for the institution of the Old Law. It is easy enough to conclude from that that Jesus, Who will not change His mind over time since He exists outside of time, and Who founded the Old Law in the first place, is not going to suddenly come and rearrange His own rules. Rather, He came to fulfill them, and to perfect them among men, not to abolish them and make them easier.
A quick note: if a “Christian” ever tries to sway you into thinking that homosexuality is now acceptable by equating it with the fact that it’s acceptable to, say, eat pork (despite the fact that the Old Testament forbid such food), please take a moment to remind them of Jesus’ line “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” (Mt 15:11). I can’t say they’ll be very happy to hear that, but that’s not really my concern here. While Jesus may have changed some of the technicalities of the Law, he did nothing to alter its true morality.
Next, Jesus says “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.” He means that the implications of the Old Law are still there; the code of morality is still in place, and still has penalties. That’s why it’s not only important for us to keep His commandments, but also for us to try to help those who don’t–to bring them to the full, true teaching of Christ. The people who will teach others to disobey God’s Commandments especially need our help–both for the sakes of those upon whom they have influence, and for their own sakes. If a person guides others to paths which could take them to Hell, then that person’s pretty much fashioning a one-way ticket to the devil’s lair for themselves while they’re at it.
Another thing Jesus says today (while we’re on the topic of judgment): “Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” When we read that, a human judge and an earth-bound courtroom naturally come to mind; but I don’t think that’s all of what Jesus is getting at here.
The above lines could also apply to when we will meet God, and be judged in person by Him. When Jesus says “settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court,” he’s essentially saying that we should make up with our enemies–either by repenting of what we’ve done to them and trying to make good on it, or by forgiving them of what they’ve done to us–“on the way to court.” We’re all “on the way to court.” Life itself is a journey to the eternal courtroom of God. We have to make up with others as soon as we can in this life, because we never know when this life will end–when we’ll reach that courtroom, and be out of time to settle with our “opponents.” “Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.” Now, of course, our human “opponents” have no ability to condemn us eternally in any way. Our biggest opponent is justice; and since not one of us is perfectly just, justice itself will hand us over to God. God is the epitome of justice; justice will be done. If we are found to be unfit for Heaven, or “freedom,” then we will be thrown into prison–“until [we] have paid the last penny.” If we failed during life to follow The Lord’s instruction to build up our treasure in Heaven, then we will have nothing with which to pay, and we will be put in for life–which, at that point, will mean eternity (in Hell). Otherwise, we will land in Purgatory, where we will remain “until [we] have paid the last penny.” In Purgatory, we have hope that we will indeed be free, but we must first serve our just sentence.
Before I finish (you can wake up now, it’s almost over), I want to mention today’s Responsorial Psalm. Put short, it says that those who observe and seek God’s will are blessed–and it also asks, in several ways, for God to make His will known. This is what we all should be praying for, above all else–that God will make His wishes known to us, so that we might obey them to the best of our ability. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” as it says in the Our Father. If we really mean that we want His will to be done, then we have to try to do it. If we wish to reach Heaven, and to spend eternity with our loving Creator, then we should pray for His guidance, for the knowledge of His will, as often as we can–and see that we obey that will as wholeheartedly as we can.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”–Jesus (Mk 9:42)
by Cameron Daly