Lectio Divina: Matthew 5:17-19
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
Your prophets remind us
in season and out of season
of our responsibilities toward You
and toward 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 such a way that its practice indicates in what its complete fulfillment consists (Mt 5:17-19). Matthew writes in order to help the communities of converted Jews to 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 the clarifying response of Jesus concerning His accusers. Thus, he gives 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 to be salt and light! He had given some advice regarding each one of the two images. Then follow two or three 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 communities of the first Christians. 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 presence 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 and 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 space where the balance can be attained and lived. The answer given by Jesus to those who criticized Him continued to be timely 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, what was the objective which the law wanted to attain in the life of people, that is, in the perfect practice of love.
• Matthew 5:19: Not one dot or stroke will disappear from the Law. It is for those who wanted to get rid of all the law that Matthew recalls the other parable of Jesus: “Anyone who infringes 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
• Laws are written in the negative: “thou shall not...”. Love is performed in the positive: as service, caring, helping. It is the same with virtues and vices, which each address in a positive and negative way. Take each Commandment and rewrite it in a positive way of action that conforms to an act of love. Can it be done? Can you do what it demands?
• What can we do today for our brothers and sisters who believe faith in Jesus does not demand action as well? How would you approach that attitude? Is yours a faith and a life that shows love in action, or would someone who observes you say they see talk, but not much action as well?
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)