Lectio Divina: Matthew 5:17-19
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
Your prophets remind us
in season and out of season
of our responsibilities toward You
and toward the world of people.
When they disturb and upset us,
let it be a holy disturbance
that makes us restless, eager to do Your will
and to bring justice and love around us.
We ask You this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 5:17-19
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not 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. 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. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
• Today’s Gospel (Mt 5:17-19) teaches how to observe the law of God in its complete fulfillment (Mt 5:17-19). Matthew writes in order to help the communities of converted Jews overcome the criticism of the brothers of their own race who accused them, saying, “You are unfaithful to the Law of Moses.” Jesus Himself had been accused of infidelity to the Law of God. Matthew has Jesus’ clarifying response to His accusers. Thus, Matthew sheds some light to help the communities solve their problems.
• Using images of daily life, with simple and direct words, Jesus had said that the mission of the community, its reason for being, is that of being salt and light! He had given some advice regarding each one of the two images. Then follow the brief verses of today’s Gospel.
• Matthew 5:17-18: Not one dot, nor one stroke is to disappear from the Law. There were several different tendencies in the first Christian communities. Some thought that it was not necessary to observe the laws of the Old Testament, because we are saved by faith in Jesus and not by the observance of the Law (Rm 3:21-26). Others accepted Jesus, the Messiah, but they did not accept the liberty of spirit with which some of the communities lived the message of Jesus. They thought that, being Jews, they had to continue to observe the laws of the Old Testament (Acts 15:1,5). But there were Christians who lived so fully in the freedom of the Spirit, who no longer looked at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, nor to the Old Testament that they even went so far as to say, “Anathema Jesus!” (1 Cor 12:3). Observing these tensions, Matthew tries to find some balance between both extremes. The community should be a place where the balance can be attained and lived. Jesus’ answer to those who criticized Him continued to be relevant for the communities: “I have not come to abolish the law, but to complete it!” The communities could not be against the Law, nor could they close themselves off in the observance of the Law. Like Jesus, they should advance and show in practice, the objective thst the Law wanted to attain in people’s lives, that is, in the perfect practice of love.
• Matthew 5:17-18: Not one dot or stroke will disappear from the Law. It is for those who wanted to get rid of the law altogether that Matthew recalls the other parable of Jesus: “Anyone who breaks even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but the person who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” The great concern in Matthew’s Gospel is to show that the Old Testament, Jesus of Nazareth, and the life in the Spirit cannot be separated. The three of them form part of the same and unique plan of God and communicate to us the certainty of faith: The God of Abraham and of Sarah is present in the midst of the community by faith in Jesus of Nazareth who sends us His Spirit.
4) Personal questions
• How do I see and live God’s law: as a freedom to do anything I please, as an imposition which restricts me, or as a guide to grow in love?
• What can we do today for our brothers and sisters who consider all of this type of discussion as obsolete and not relevant?
• How does this view of the Law and the Commandments affect me? As a line which defines sin, as rules to avoid vice, or as a guide in attaining virtue?
5) Concluding Prayer
Praise Yahweh, Jerusalem,
Zion, praise your God.
For He gives strength to the bars of your gates,
He blesses your children within you. (Ps 145:12-13)