New Law, New Love
Thursday: Tenth Week of the Year: June 9, 2016
Year II: 1Kings 17:1-6; Psalm 65:10-13; Matthew 5:20-26
In 1Kings 18: 41-46 Elijah trusted that it was going to rain before he ever saw it. Although his servant climbed the mountain seven times to look, he saw nothing more forming over the sea than “a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand.” But Elijah knew. He sent word to to Ahab, ‘Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.” When The Responsorial Psalm declares: “It is right to praise you in Zion, O God” (Psalm 65), it doesn’t mean we should wait for “signs and wonders,” or even a visible answer to our prayers before we praise and thank God. God doesn’t have to prove himself; he simply is all Good, caring and providing for us with infinite love. Always. It is what he is. And now, because we share in his divine life by grace, we are called to be like him — in thought, word and deed. And to believe we can be.
This is the key to the “New Law” Jesus teaches in Matthew 5: 20-26. He rewrites all the commandments, beginning with “You shall not murder.” The “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” was simply to live as good human beings. The New Law calls us to live on the level of God. So we are breaking his law if we are even (willfully) “angry” or insulting to others, even in the privacy of our own minds. Jesus refers to others as our “brothers and sisters” to remind us that we need to see others as our Father in heaven sees them – and us. We break his commandment whenever we choose not to look at others with the same respect and love God has for them. If we won’t do this, then no matter how “religious” we appear to be, we simply do not know God: “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1John 4:8).
John goes further. He says that by the very fact that we “hate a brother or sister” we are “murderers” (1John 3:15). Strong words. He says haters do not have “eternal life abiding in them” — that is, the “grace” of sharing in God’s divine life. And they do not recognize God’s life in others. In their minds they have taken that life away from them, “killed” them in their perception.
In his New Law Jesus reaffirms what God emphatically taught his People from the beginning: that our prayers and devotions do not please God if our hearts are not conformed to his. “When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister.” What God wants most of all, after our undivided love for him, is that we should love one another. If we keep all the rest of his commandments, but don’t try above all to love others and express our love to them, none of the rest counts for very much (Amos 5:11-22; Matthew 22:37-39; 1Corinthians 13:1-3).
Jesus summarized his New Law in one sentence: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another… just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This is a law for living on the level of God. Without faith in grace the New Law is impossible.