12 June, 2013. Wednesday of the Tenth Week
2 Cor 3:4ff. The new covenant of grace is based not on some written law but on the Spirit.
Matt 5:17ff. Jesus came not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.
First Reading; 2 Co 3:4-11
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!
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.
Conservatism in our Changing Times
If the reading from St. Paul reflects serious tensions, today’s Gospel seeks to harmonize and reconcile. As a wise man wrote, “There is a time for everything…. A time to tear, and a time to sow…. A time for war, and a time for peace.” How well that idea of “a time to plant and a time to uproot” fits with our Lord’s words today. In order to fulfil the Law and the Prophets he must uproot whatever is old and obsolete, to help us embrace the new. We are not to follow a dead code of law that has lost its meaing but a new living law of the Spirit. Paul calls us, like the Corinthians, to make a clear decision to move ahead.
But Matthew notes that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. We need to discern which things are old yet not obsolete – such as the ten commandments. Ecclesiastes’ sense of prudent timing applies to many aspects of Church life, where some want to conserve traditions of the past which others consider overdue for renewal or outright discarding. Our Church must take on board some values – mainly democratic and participative – of our modern society, in order to share Christ’s mind with our contemporaries, while avoiding bad, short-term and emotionally-driven decisions. But Jesus and Paul tell us that it is the Spirit who gives life, so we must not be rigidly bound by rules which made sense to our Church in the past but which no longer offer hope for the future. With this outlook we can have mature discussion about the way forward in presenting the Gospel in ways required by the time in which we live. We must rely on prayer, dialogue and the guidance of the Holy Spirit who has called us to share in the responsibility of helping to build the Kingdom of God.