6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today, we heard Our Lord say that He did not come to abolish but to fulfill the law.  In the Old Testament, there were 613 laws that the Jewish people were bound to follow.  Besides the Ten Commandments, there were laws concerning trade and finance, there were dietary laws, there were laws which regulated Temple worship, there were laws on how the Jews were to deal with non-Jews; there were many different kinds of laws which dealt with every aspect of life, yet all those laws had the same goal: the point of all those laws was to get people to live the way that God created them to live.  The goal of the laws of the Old Testament was to lead the people into a closer relationship with God.

God did not give the law to restrict freedom; God gave the law in order to give His chosen people authentic freedom.  In the First Commandment, God says: “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.  You shall not have other gods before Me.”  The God Who gives the law is the God Who frees His people from slavery.  The law doesn’t enslave; the law sets free.  If God wanted His people to be slaves, He would have left them in Egypt.  God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt so that they could worship Him in true freedom.

By giving the law to His people God was showing them the way to be free from slavery to sin.  The people of Israel did not see the law as a burden they saw the law as a great blessing.  Many of the Psalms praise God for giving the law; the Jewish people knew that the law was a sign of the Covenant (of the relationship) that they were in with God.  They knew that God did not reveal Himself to other nations at that time; He did not give other nations around them the law.  The Jewish people were set apart and chosen by God; God enabled His people to follow Him by giving them the law.  The Israelites knew that the law was a sign of God’s favor.

The 613 laws of the Old Testament were meant to get the people to change their hearts; the laws were given in order to free people from sin and allow them to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.  Unfortunately, many people practiced the laws externally without allowing the laws to change their hearts.  Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees because they followed the laws to the letter but they did not allow those laws to change their hearts: their external practice of the law was impeccable, but their hearts were far from God.  The Pharisees missed the whole point of the law.

Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law: He shows us what the law really means.  Our Lord tells us that the entire law can be summed up in two commandments: love God above everything and love your neighbor as yourself.  Even though 613 laws were simplified into two laws these two laws are more difficult to live out than all 613 laws of the Old Testament put together.  The 613 laws could be lived out exteriorly without the person really being changed.  The two laws that Jesus gives to us call us to a higher standard: the new law is not just about external observance.  The new law is about allowing our hearts to be radically changed by God’s grace.  The new law calls us to internalize the law and live in true charity.

We must not only not commit adultery, but we must develop Christian purity in our thoughts, in our words and actions, in what we allow ourselves to watch on television and in movies, in what we allow ourselves to read: in other words, in all that we do.  Above all we are to preserve purity in our hearts.  Avoiding murder is not enough to be faithful to the new law; the true Christian must remove anger and hatred from their heart and strive to love others, even enemies.  That kind of love is not the warm, fuzzy feeling that many people in the world today think of when they hear the word ‘love’; love is an act of the will: it is a choice that is made.  Sometimes love is accompanied by intense emotions, but not always.  Love is a choice that we have to make again and again throughout the day, each and every day.  Everyday we have to choose to love God; everyday we have to choose to love our families.

Jesus tells us that we are even to love even our enemies.  The choice to love is not always an easy choice to make but it is the love that we are called to have.  Jesus not only commanded us to have this kind of love; He, Himself is the model of that love.  Jesus reveals to us what real love looks like.  Look at the Crucifix: that is real love.  Real love gives the self away; real love sacrifices the self for the good of the beloved.  Jesus commanded us to love and He showed us how to love.  “There is no greater love,” He said, “than to lay down your life for the one you love.”  Jesus laid down His life for us and He calls us to make of ourselves a spiritual sacrifice to God and to others.

In order to really live out the love that Jesus models for us and commands us to have for God and for our neighbor we need God’s grace.  We are incapable of fulfilling the new law of love without God’s help.  For our weak, fallen human nature the law that Jesus gave is impossible; but through Him we can do all things.  The Eucharist contains all the grace that we need: for the Eucharist is Jesus, Himself, and He is the Author and Source of all grace.  If our hearts are not transformed and completely filled with love when we receive Holy Communion, it is only because we are not open to receiving God’s grace.  Let us open our hearts to all that God wants to give us in Holy Communion today.  Jesus died to set us free from sin, He wants us to have life and have it in abundance; He longs to fill our hearts with His love; but He will not act against our free will.  Let us open our hearts to Him today and ask Him to fill our hearts with true love.

Lord Jesus Christ, help us to be open to all that You want to do in our hearts this day.  Set us free, Lord, from slavery to sin; may we live in the true freedom that you won for us on the Cross.  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, set our hearts on fire with love for You and for others.  Amen.