“For if what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious?” (2 Cor 3:11) The Scripture readings for today’s Mass point to the glory and light of the old and the new covenants. At Mt. Sinai, God spoke to Moses from out of fire and lightning, and with his own finger inscribed the stone tablets of the law to teach the Israelites how to love God and their neighbors. Moses’ face shone so luminously from this divine encounter that Aaron and the people were frightened and begged their leader to veil his face when he spoke to them (Ex 34:30,33). St. Paul tells us that the ministry of righteousness, sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ, abounds in much greater glory.
And yet Jesus, in today’s Gospel reading, tells 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.”(Mt 5:17). The setting of these words is the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus, as the new Moses, teaches the precepts of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus challenges his disciples even more than the law challenged Israel, with blessings which could only be received in the life to come.
Thomas Aquinas said that the crucified Jesus Christ perfectly exemplified the beatitudes. Jesus Christ would pour out His love for mankind on the cross in perfect obedience to God the Father, thus fulfilling the command to love God with your whole heart, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus commands his disciples to “let your light shine before men” (Mt 5:16). When He was transfigured on Mt. Tabor in the presence of Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophet), a voice from the bright cloud, like the shekinah shining over the tabernacle said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt 17:5). In the temple, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).
Jesus Fulfilled the Law
In order to understand how Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets one must carefully study the Old Testament. It is majestically illuminated in the magnificent stained glass circular rose window of the north transept of the Chartres Notre Dame Cathedral in France, completed in 1225 CE. This masterpiece towers 70 feet above the heads of the worshippers and is 42 feet in diameter. At the center is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the throne of Wisdom, who holds the infant Jesus in her arms. Surrounding this central image are 12 small panes with white lilies pointing to the purity of both the mother and the child. The next circle contains 12 larger panes with 4 white doves signifying the intellectual gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, knowledge and counsel) and 8 panes depicting the angelic hierarchy. Only through the Holy Spirit can we recognize who Jesus is. Then surrounding this circle are 12 diamond shaped panes containing the images of David’s dynasty, ancestors of Jesus Christ.
Millions have worshipped and prayed beneath this rose window over the last 800 years, acknowledging Jesus Christ as the icon of the invisible God, the son of David and son of Mary and the first-born from the dead. St. Paul said “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’(Gen 1:3) who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6)
As a reflection on today’s readings, do we allow the word of God to be a light to our paths?