Vol. 6, No.22
Daughters of Mary
February 7, 2017
6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
As I began thinking about this Gospel reflection, I wondered what the Holy Spirit had in mind for me to learn from prayer, the research and writings. I also wondered what I would learn from the Daughters of Mary discussion. It was an exciting adventure about to begin.
Out of this long Gospel passage I felt drawn to this quote: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The Greek word fulfil translated means “to make complete.” (Bible page 15.) The question is what needs to be made complete? It is the 10 commandments.
Lynn Clapper provided an historical prospective of why God gave the commandments to his people. The Israelites had been slaves, who by their God’s miracles, were freed. For 40 years after their release from Egypt, they wandered the desert before reaching the promised land. A generation had passed and God provided a nation populated by a people who worshiped one God in the midst of the pagan world. The commandments were God’s covenant with them. The laws regulated public behavior. Obedience of the commandments maintained civil order, an outward standard of righteousness. The Jews were different than the Gentiles. The commandments were the way to righteousness in the Old Testament. One could say the Israelites practiced the letter of the law. This old law was a preparation for the Gospel.
Jesus, with the Sermon on the Mount, provides the spirit of the law; the fulfillment of the law. He perfects the moral laws of the old covenant. The scope is wider. It encompasses Jews, Gentiles, and the international kingdom. This new covenant penetrates to heart relationships. It reaches within to govern personal and private lives, to obtain a maximal standard of holiness. “As the old covenant formed virtuous citizens in Israel, so the new covenant generates saints of the Church.” (CCC 1963-1968.) What would fulfill or make complete the commandments? Jesus Christ is the answer. The Sermon on the Mount is the definition. And as Catherine Hannahan so beautifully explained studying “poverty of spirit” is a framework for understanding this beautifully worded message of Jesus.
How can we move from living our lives from the prospective of the letter of the law to immersing ourselves into living the spirit of the law? Previous commentaries have offered methods to achieve this end. Ask for the grace to grow in a relationship with Jesus. Attend daily mass and receive Holy Communion. Attend Adoration. Say prayers daily. Study the Bible. Read spiritual books. Attend Daughters of Mary.
Another vehicle to learning to live the spirit of the law, I think, is found in the miracle of the family. I have often thought of Jesus’ time with Mary and Joseph, especially of the 18 years after the family returned from Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 and before His public ministry began. The gospel is silent on this period. What could we learn from reflecting on this period? I think of a family where father and son work as carpenters. Mary cares for them. The Son of God lived quietly for so many years among us. Imagine the patience, the obedience, and the love that must have been in that home. God gave us the miracle of the family structure to provide the environment where unconditional love exists between parents, parents and children, relatives and family. Jesus gave us this example to demonstrate how family live and work together, day in and day out, always trying to love and respect each other.
Family is a miracle for us. From the initial attraction of husband and wife, their covenant love helps both work to get each other to heaven. If children are conceived, the miracle of love at first sight for parents and extended family of a baby overflows. The development of these loving relationships increases over good and bad times. Family provides a place to learn the power of unconditional love, the trust humans provide for each other, the environment to learn and see someone’s faults but love them because they are your family.
The Catholic Church that Jesus gave us is where God’s adopted children find the foundation to hold this family together. Indeed, the Church is a family with God our Father and Mary our mother. The sacraments, Mass, and the Church tradition are all vehicles to help us practice “poverty of spirit.” The criticality of the family is one of the reasons the Church protects and defends the need of family in the culture.
In summary, we have many explanations and examples of “What fulfills the law.” BUT the task is difficult. Matthew Kelly in his book Resisting Happiness defines this difficulty succinctly. “There are four words that embody the challenge of the Christian life; we find them in the fifth line of the Our Father: THY WILL BE DONE. These four words present the greatest challenge of Christianity.” (Page 36) Matthew offers some unique thoughts on how to strengthen our love of Jesus and others. You may be familiar with his expression “the best version of yourself”.
I look forward to hearing your comments or examples of your “poverty in spirit” journey.
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, Second Catholic Edition RSV
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
Resisting Happiness, Matthew Kelly