Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
(Deuteronomy 4:1.5-9; Matthew 5:17-19)
John Adams, the second president of the United States, taught that governments are better guided by laws than by “men.” He meant that a nation fares better when it follows prudent laws rather than charismatic men and women. Moses delivers a similar message to the Israelites in today’s first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy.
The word “Deuteronomy” literally means “second law.” The book re-presents the Law that the Book of Exodus describes God giving the people. Deuteronomy also explains the value of the Law as today’s passage shows. It says that because it comes from God, abiding by it assures God’s assistance. In the reading from Matthew’s gospel Jesus upholds the entire Law. Perhaps some in his day thought that he meant to pick and choose the parts of it that were to be followed. Perhaps, also, Matthew wants to cite Jesus to refute those who misinterpret St. Paul by saying the Law has been abolished.
Christians, in fact, do not follow the dietary and ritual laws of the Old Testament. But we should obey its personal and social precepts. It is true that we have a New Law, but that merely gives an overarching summary of the pertinent precepts. We are to love God above all and to love our neighbors as ourselves. To accomplish these daunting tasks we have the Holy Spirit to assist us.