Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Lent Week 3 Wednesday

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9; Ps 147; Matthew 5:17-19

The 'end', or 'purpose', of the Law is that the holiness of God be revealed, and that a people living according to that law might be brought into communion - a sharing of life and love - with God who is holy. What does the word 'holy' mean? We know it means infinitely just and loving, and we know this from Christ who is the fulness of the Law.

The verses of Matthew read today are said to be the most controverisal in that gospel. If we have a narrow understanding of law and of what the term refers to here, then these verses are very difficult to reconcile with, for example, some of Paul's statements about the Law. But if the term 'law' is understood more profoundly, as it is for example in Baruch or in Psalm 119/118, then it refers to God's wisdom, God's word, God's way for His people. We know where that way, that truth, and that life, are revealed fully. It is he, Jesus, who is the fulness of the Law, he is the one who keeps it to the letter, because he is himself the Word (= wisdom; = law).

Two words in the gospel support this interpretation. Jesus says he has come not to abolish but to complete or fulfill the Law, to bring it to its pleroma. He is the pleroma, the fulness of time and the fulness of things, and God's wisdom, word and way are all complete in him.

The other phrase is variously translated. Nothing disappears from the law 'until its purpose is achieved', or 'until all things are accomplished'. At this point in Lent we cannot but think of Jesus' 'hour', the fulness of time, when all that has been foretold and all that has been promised will be fulfilled. God's holiness will be revealed as never before, God's heart of justice and love exposed as never before.

The new and eternal covenant sealed in his blood does not replace the old but brings it to its full flourishing. The Lord our God is nearer to us now than when we first believed, is how Paul puts it, the wisdom of God's Word now dwelling in our hearts through the Spirit that has been poured into them.

As we turn the corner of this mid-point of Lent we begin to look away from ourselves and our own spiritual and moral efforts, to look simply at Christ in whom those efforts dissolve on the one hand (come to their end) and in whom they find their destination on the other (fulfill their purpose).

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