Dear brothers and sisters, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
The law given to the people of Israel was the stipulation in the ratification of the bilateral covenant relationship between God and them. God had established a covenant with His people, Israel, at Mount Sinai, after He delivered them from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. The people promising to obey the stipulations of the covenant relationship said, “we will do everything that the Lord has told us” (Exodus 24:3). In His part, God promised that the people would be His treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Exodus 19: 5-6). He would be their God, and they would be His people (Jer. 30:22).
Thus, fidelity to God’s laws was Israel’s way of keeping God’s covenant relationship alive and living up to their covenant expectations. It was their way of spreading the knowledge of God, showing the nature of God to the nations, and revealing His loving character. Also, through Israel’s fidelity to God’s law, the other nations would acknowledge her as a wise, intelligent, and great nation, as we read in the first reading today.
Being a Great Nation
How do we evaluate a great nation? In this day and age, people use different metrics to classify a nation as great or not. Such metrics as economy, development, the exercise of freedom, culture, and citizens’ quality of life, etc., have been used in such classification and evaluation. These and other metrics fall short of assessing a nation’s uprightness, relationship with God, and moral probity, which are marks of true greatness.
In the first reading, God tells the Israelites that their greatness will be known by how evident it is that they have a relationship with Him. This is seen in their faithfulness to His laws, statutes, and decrees; and their willingness to teach them to their children and children’s children. There is wisdom in this divine proposition. Imagine what a God-fearing, divine-law-abiding Israel would be. It would be in a situation of no criminality, hatred, injustice, oppression, oppressive acts, or other vices. No capital punishment or imprisonment of any sort will exist. It would be a haven and a citadel of love because everyone would be following the dictates and commandments of God. Thus, whether as a nation or a person, if we know God’s commandments and are faithful and obedient to them, then evil and criminality will no longer be associated with us or our society. And that is a mark of true greatness.
Jesus is the Fulfilment of the Law
Today’s Gospel passage is from the Gospel of Matthew, 5:17-19. It is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us that he did not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them. In other words, Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and prophets. The law and prophets point to Him, and He gives us a proper interpretation of them, so the law is no longer taken at its face value. Further reading of chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, beyond the passages of today’s gospel, shows Christ’s preeminent interpretation of the commandments (Matt. 5:21-46).
Jesus Christ gave a new and more profound meaning and understanding of God’s commandments and summed the law and prophets into two commandments, Love of God and Love of neighbor. He challenges us to obey and teach the commandments to be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Similarly, he wants us to avoid transgressing the commandments, misleading and making people break them. Doing so will make us the least in the kingdom of heaven. Just as the Israelites of old were taught, Christ also teaches that obedience to God’s commandments and willingness to teach them is a mark of greatness for every child of God.
Always remember that Jesus loves you!