As we are fast approaching Lent we in today’s Gospel Jesus is using the old law to introduce the new law. A call to holiness in Christ. The powerful text has an authority that breathes life “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Jesus through the creative word is bringing forth something great and infinite. He commands attentiveness. “Not one stroke of the letter” it certainly is a minuscule thing to most of us and yet to Jesus it is of great importance. In today’s gospel we listen to Jesus speak on anger, adultery, divorce and oaths. Jesus’s new law does not provoke fear but all speaks of love.
My husband and I have raised three adult children. We have had debates with them on what the church teaches and what the world projects. Given the complexity of marriage and the social norms these topics remain difficult to broch with your family let alone the wider community. It is evident that the Old Testament laws were harsh in dealing with adultery. Even in our world today, there are many cultural differences on these subjects. Jesus does not shy away from them but rather speaks with power to bring about change. Re-reading the passage a few times I can hear his appeal to the Father for us. He is guiding us like a loving parent, one who has eternal sight to know what is best for our salvation. It is better to “nip it in the bud” than have to cut out the rot when it becomes irreparable. He appeals to us too, to be attentive to our thoughts and actions. How often do our actions cause hurt to ourselves and others? Imagine a world where everyone loved like Christ. It would be a world where laws would not be required.
Jesus speaks with directness “say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.” How often do we avoid a “Yes” or “No” response out of fear of what someone might think of us? Jesus is asking us to trust in the truth of our response to be his true witness. In a recent homily on the Beatitudes I heard the words of the pastor, “It is a pure heart that can say ‘yes’ when they mean yes and ‘no’ when they mean no. How refreshing to be able to speak in this way? Doesn’t it remind us of children? They can say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ without us needing the question their motives.
As Lent approaches let us humbly ask Jesus to instil in us trust to follow his law. May Jesus’ strong redemptive words in today’s Gospel enter our hearts and place there all the goods we need to become teachable. Let us ask for the strength to speak the truth and remain faithful to his teaching.