Gospel MT 5:17-19
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
This is a gospel that speaks of rigid application of the law. It seems to “fly in the face” of Jesus’ constant promise of forgiveness through repentance of our sins.
I don’t believe Jesus was referring to the hundreds of man made laws that the Scribes had established. Even the Pharisees were not able to observe them perfectly. Such laws made forgiveness and the attainment of heaven virtually impossible for the average person.
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus was most likely referring to the ten commandments given to Moses by God himself.
In any event, in reality, no one goes through life without breaking one or more of the commandments.
It was never Jesus’ intention that we should live in fear of God but instead Jesus desired that we should live assured of our Father’s love.
Today’s gospel should be read along with Jesus’ statements on mercy and forgiveness.
From Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
From Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
And from Luke 24:47 “and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
At the beginning of each Mass the priest prays, “Let us call to mind our sins.”
Father Joe Callahan, CSC of the Holy Cross Retreat House, often follows that prayer with the following words: “We should never call to mind our sins without also calling to mind God’s mercy.”
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 14:18
Gospel MT 5:17-19