Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent
(Deuteronomy 4:1.5-9; Matthew 5:17-19)
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Robert Frost wrote at the beginning of a famous poem. We might change “wall” to “law” and come up with a similar truth. Laws(like walls) can obstruct the good as well as serve it. For example, privacy laws can make clerical visits in hospitals problematic. It seems that the apostle Paul had little use for law. He wrote the Letters to the Galatians and the Romans refuting the need for Christians to be circumcised as the Jewish Law prescribes.
Still laws are necessary. They guide us in the pursuit of the good. Without some laws, at least, we would likely make repeated mistakes and hurt people in the process. We also need laws to protect us from the unscrupulous who would not allow common respect for others inhibit their desires. In the readings today both Moses and Jesus extol the Law which God has given to the Israelites. Moses believes that there are no statutes and decrees more just than those contained in Israel’s Law. Jesus finds the same Law binding until all things come to pass. Then how can Paul dismiss it so forcefully? And why do we not practice that Law today?
The Ten Commandments have always served as a guide to morality and still bind Christians. It is true, however, that the ritualistic parts of the Law have lost their force because with Jesus’ death and resurrection all things indeed have come to pass. Finally, we should not understand Paul as rejecting the Law completely but as saying that alone the Law has proven ineffectual at producing the righteousness of salvation. For that, he says, we need the grace of Christ.