3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday

Today’s Gospel passage concerning the Law and the prophets is situated almost immediately after the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel. The First Reading today reminds us that Moses told the Israelites that observing the Law would show their intelligence and wisdom not only among themselves, but to all the nations. In Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel Our Lord is being cast as a new Moses, speaking once again the words of encouragement to the People of God. He is far more than Moses, as John reminds us in his Gospel: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

If Our Lord brought something way beyond Moses, way beyond the Law, a question obviously on his listeners’ minds is whether the Law is necessary at all, now that they have the opportunity to receive something more. Our Lord is about to teach them that the precepts of the Law are to be followed, but from the heart, not just out of a hollow external religious observance. Today he tells them that when considering the Law and the prophets they should consider their purpose; they were meant to reflect wisdom and intelligence and that wisdom and intelligence needs to be sought and kept in mind in order for their observance to fulfill its purpose. As he continues his discourse in Chapter 5 he starts teaching them how the Law’s they’d already been following needed to be lived from the perspective of charity.

Today we may ask ourselves why, based on this teaching of Lord, are we not observant Jews falling all the old precepts of the Law? Our Lord himself criticized certain traditions of interpretation introduced by the scribes and Pharisees that were not what the Lord wished (cf. Matthew 15:1–20). After his Ascension the Church also wrestled with this question when they started evangelizing non-Jews, and they discerned, in keeping with Our Lord’s teaching and aided by the Holy Spirit, that Our Lord was not asking Christians to follow the Mosaic Law and culture in its entirety (cf. Acts 15:1–35).

If you have difficulty following the “rules” of our faith, ask Our Lord to help you to rediscover their purpose, wisdom, and intelligence. He wants to teach us, even today, if we let him.

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:1, 5–9; Psalm 147:12–13, 15–16, 19–20; Matthew 5:17–19. See also 10th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.