I Have Come to Fulfill the Law

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but he who does and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”  (Mt 5:17-19. RSV2CE).

These verses highlight the importance of adhering to the laws and teachings of the Old Testament. Yet, we know that the “works of law:” the purification rites, animal sacrifices, circumcision, and even kosher laws did not survive after Jesus’ ministry. So, what then did He mean?

We first recall that the overall context of the Old Testament is to reveal Jesus and testify to His coming, as He informs the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection (Cf.: Lk 24:13-35). As such, the Law, Prophecies, and commandments point to Him and find their final fulfilment in Him.

Continuity and Fulfillment

Fulfilment, in Greek (plērōsai), means to bring something to its intended completion or perfection. Since Jesus speaks that nothing will pass from the Law until it is all accomplished, what then is the accomplishing act? Nothing less than His perfect sacrifice on the cross.

As the Mosaic “works of law” pass away by virtue of Jesus’ fulfillment at Calvary, the moral law is affirmed and expanded, and we are empowered to keep it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The challenge that follows goes beyond mere adherence to the letter of the moral law.  We are instructed to embody its spirit. Therefore, it is not enough to avoid adultery -I must love my spouse, especially when I do not feel like it, and not look at another with lust in my heart. It is not enough not to kill; I must not wish my brother any harm – in fact, I must leave my gift at the foot of the altar until I have first gone and reconciled with him.

Perhaps the most difficult command requires me to love my enemies.  It is not enough now to simply love my neighbour, for even pagans are able to do so.

The necessity of the Holy Spirit becomes obvious when meditating on the Sermon on the Mount, for only with God’s grace can a person so love.

Spreading the Good News

Properly understood, the provisions of His greatest Sermon are liberating. Detachment from sin follows the believer who embodies its provisions.

The Mosaic Law prepared us for Jesus’ final revelation. Today we reflect that Jesus calls all believers to faithful obedience and to an authentic transmission of God’s Truth, now perfected in the “law of Christ.”  This law of Christ is the law of love.

Summarizing as Jesus did at the Last Supper, His law is straightforward -even as it remains difficult to fulfil: “Love one another as I have loved you…”  (Jn 13:34).

His Holy Spirit was sent to help us, so we pray “May the Divine Assistance remain always with us. Amen.”

[Readings: 1 Kings 18:20-39; Matthew 5:17-19]

Jerry DeMelo Jr.

Mr Jerry DeMelo, Jr OP is a life-long Catholic and life professed Lay Dominican. A graduate of the Naval Academy, he served in the US Submarine Service. He is presently a Judicial Officer in California. Jerry enjoys Catholic Pilgrimages, teaches a weekly Bible study as well as the Diaconate formation program for the Diocese of Fresno. Mr DeMelo is on the Board of Directors of Gratia Vobis Ministries.

Leave a Comment