The book of Deuteronomy (from the Greek: deuteronomos, literally, “second law”) consists of a series of discourses given by Moses to the generation of Israelites who were about to enter into the Promised Land. In many ways, the liturgical text for today’s First Reading (cf. Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9) may be understood as a microcosm of the entire book of Deuteronomy, as it consists of injunctions to follow the law, as well as motivations for doing so. The fulcrum of the passage could be seen in verse 7 and 8: “What great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?” Apparently, the Israelite nation was incomparably great because it was so closely connected to its God, and because it was so closely connected to its TORAH (LAW). Thus, if God draws near in the law that God gives, then we can expect the law to produce the same things that God produces. According to our Deuteronomy text, it does. As God gives life, so the law gives life.
Dear friends in Christ, in the time of Jesus, he was called “Rabbi” by his disciples, who were students of his interpretation of the Law. It is therefore highly unlikely that Jesus calls us to dismiss the law’s life-giving power, wisdom and understanding; and that is why in today’s Gospel (cf. Matthew 5:17-19), Jesus said: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them.” In Jesus, we have come to see that love is the fulfilment of the whole Law; put differently, the greatest commandment of the Law is love – the love of God and love of our neighbour (cf. Matthew 22:36–40). Therefore, if we keep the commandments by loving God and our neighbour, and teach others to do the same, we will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.
Dear friends in Christ, just like the Israelites, we Catholics are graced with all the means of salvation rooted in the Word of God (Laws) in addition to the Sacraments; as such, we can talk of our heritage like today’s Psalmist: “He has not dealt thus with other nations; he has not taught them his decrees.” In this vein, a higher expectation is expected on our part, and it is the call to love truly – the love of God and our neighbour. May we cooperate with the grace that comes with this season of Lent to keep God’s commandments in love, inasmuch as we teach others to keep them as well.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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