MY SUNDAY REFELCTION: February 23, 2014
Reflections from Matthew 5:38-48
THE GRACE OF GOD IS THE BRIDGE BETWEEN THE LETTER AND SPIRIT OF THE LAW.
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.
I found our readings for today the easiest to read. The words and the message are spelled out so clearly that hardly there is a need to explain what our Lord would like us to know and do. But from a different perspective, this teaching is actually one of the most difficult to follow. How can we love our neighbour in the same way we love ourselves? And how can we love our enemies?
This week, in a recorded message of Pope Francis to the Evangelical Church – Kenneth Copeland ministries in the U.S., the Pope said that the greatest commandment of God is to love God and to love our neighbours, and if we have these, we can move forward. The history of Christendom is replete with historical events that demonstrated how the church struggled to keep up with this teaching and yet history was punctuated with many controversies that put to test our love for our neighbours. The great Christological controversies of the first three hundred years of Christianity, the great schism in the eleventh century and the protestant reformation and counterreformation are just examples of the church’s struggle. But each time we see how the grace of God works. God is leading His people towards reconciliation. When we fail His chastisement comes but with the grace to help us rise up. Today this challenge remains the same, but the grace of God is unlimited if only we would draw from it the help we need.
In the Old Testament we saw how the Children of Israel, the people of God were commanded to love their brothers. In Leviticus 19:17-18 God emphasized and affix His Name on that great commandment. He said: “I am the Lord”. Reflecting again on the first reading and on the Gospel, I notice a parallelism. The Old Testament emphasized love for one’s neighbour, and who is the neighbour? The neighbour here is their fellow Israelites, and thus this excludes the Gentiles. But in the New Testament, Christ reaffirmed this commandment but expanded it to include everyone and to even command love for one’s enemies, and the demonstration of love and compassion even for those bitterly oppose to us.
Christ came not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it. He re-affirmed the unity and continuity of the Old and the New Testament. Just as the Law came though Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Christ came to fulfil the spirit of the Law, while Moses mediated the letter of the Law. This very same grace brought by Christ, is the panacea for the sin that has afflicted humankind. It does not only command obedience, but it gives the means to fulfil. While John the Baptist baptize with water, Christ baptize with spirit and with fire. Did we not remember how terrified were the disciples before the Pentecost? But after the descent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples became bolder in their proclamation of the gospel. The early church as a caring and loving church, witnessing to the message of Christ. The fervency, love and courage shown by Stephen the proto-martyr demonstrated the kind of grace that comes from the spirit of the Law.
In this age of grace, the light has shown among the gentiles. Jesus is offering his saving grace to all nations. St. Paul said, no one can be saved by their own efforts. Thus the legalistic observance of the Law of Moses is futile unless God gives us the Holy Spirit and gives us the extraordinary and unmerited help to overcome our weaknesses and our wounded nature. As we walk in this narrow way, may we discover the joy and happiness of Christian perfection. May we learn to truly love and to truly be compassionate so that we may become the children of the Father. And this can come to reality when we listen to the Word of God. Faith comes by listening to the Word of God. Amen.