Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
(Deuteronomy 4:1.5-9; Matthew 5:17-19)
Fifty years ago the words law and order had a connotation of severity. Politicians, sensing public disgust with civil unrest, promised “law and order” if elected. Today, however, perhaps because of a popular television show with that title, law and order has a more congenial tone. This change parallels the development of the term law that is seen in the readings today.
The Book of Deuteronomy presents the law as the lifeline of Israel. Its purpose is to regulate the ways of the people to conform to a public vision of holiness. It emphasizes the importance of remembering and teaching to posterity the code. Jesus says that he comes “to fulfill,” not to change and much less to abolish, the law. He goes beyond outer behavior to inner motives so that people may truly become holy. It will seem to some that Jesus is exhorting strictness, but that view is narrow-minded. Jesus means to liberate the human heart from attachments to worldly desires. In this way people can freely and easily live holy lives.
It is our purpose in Lent to be freed from excessive worldly attachments. In part this comes about by our efforts to abstain from material goods and to assist those in need. It also requires prayer – constant and sincere – that the Holy Spirit displace the material desire with a desire for genuine holiness.