At the beginning of today's gospel passage, Jesus says: 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). David Bivin, an Israeli-American biblical scholar teaches that
the phrase to fulfill the Law
is often used to mean to properly interpret the Torah
(the Law of God) so that people can obey it as God really intends. In other words, to fulfill to Law is to do as God truly wants us to do.
If we want to discover God's will, and if we want to do what he wants us to do, we need to develop the habit of listening for his voice, and we need to develop the habit of acting on his words. The entire bible is filled with details about all the things that our God has done since the beginning of time in order to convince us that we are loved, first and foremost by God, but the fact that God loves us does not mean that He is somehow bound to do what we want him to do. I wonder sometimes if this understanding of love has not been turned upside down in our modern-day society. For example, it is right that parents should love their children, but love for their children does not mean that parents should always do what children want them to do.
It is truly an act of humility - not humiliation - for us to realize that we are not entitled to God's love yet God chooses to help us, and God's choice is motivated by perfect freedom, offered from a place of pure love. The Law that God gave us was not meant to limit us, but rather to ensure that we use the gift of God's love which has been freely given to us in a way that is good for us and for others. As the Book of Sirach counsels: If you trust in God, you ... shall live and ... act faithfully as a matter of your own choice
(Sirach 15:15). In other words, having experienced God's love, we will come to trust Him and we will also learn how to freely share God's love with others, as a matter of choice.
Love cannot be compelled; it must be freely offered and freely accepted. This means that even if we desire to offer love to another person, that other person must be free at all times to refuse our offer. It might seem strange to think of God ever saying no to us, but this is the point. If we truly want to live in a mature and loving relationship with God, we need to respect God's freedom, and we need to realize that God always respects our freedom. We should always seek to use our freedom in a way that gives glory to God. If we do, we will strengthen our relationship with God and with others.
Today we have come to pray together. Here, in this place, we ask the Lord to show us what he truly wants us to do in the coming days, how we can be his faithful disciples. No one compels us to gather here. We have freely chosen to come, so that we can seek the wisdom of God, advice which is capable of guiding our steps in the coming days. As we celebrate the Eucharist, a sacrifice that was made freely on our behalf, let us ask forgiveness for the times we have ignored God's invitation to follow him, and let us embrace the gift of God's law and the true freedom that it leads us to discover.