14 March. Wednesday of Week 3 of Lent
Deut. 4:1ff. Belonging to God’s people is a privilege, implying responsibilities, and a wonderful destiny.
Matt 5:17ff. The new spirit taught and lived by Jesus embodies the best features of Israel’s past.
Inspired by Deuteronomy
We are reminded that laws do not exist for their own sake, but exist only as a way of obeying God. This fifth book of the Bible is not so much a “second law” (“Deutero-nomy“) but is a series of fervent, motivational homilies. The book frequently mentions “today” as the moment when Moses receives the law from the Lord and hands it on to the people. It also describes how we should respond to God, who speaks to us. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” We note the repetition here of the key word “today”.
Jesus turned spontaneously to Deuteronomy for inspiration in his own response to life. It was probably his favourite Scripture text, with its compassion to neighbour and devotion to pleasing God each passing day. Whether in the temptation scene (Matt 4:1-11) or in answering the questions about the first and greatest law (Mark 12:28-34), Jesus replied with words from this book. It resonates with the core attitude of Jesus and echoes his message more than any other book in the Bible. In this light we can appreciate his words: “Do not think I am here to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them.”
We need to grow into this attitude of Jesus, modelled upon Deuteronomy. Lent is such a time of purification, so that the least wish of God becomes a vital command for us. God in Jesus is so close to us, today, at this moment. For love such as this, stirred within our heart by God’s presence, we happily set aside our liberty and seek this clasp of covenant. With it we have chosen the very best, and through it we become “a wise and intelligent people.”
First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?
But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 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. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.