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Lenten Reflection: Day 23

Gospel, Matthew 5:17-19

Why did Moses climb the Sinai? Why did He have to come ‘face to face’ with God in the ‘burning bush’? Why did God have to carve His Law on tablets of stone and not simply speak to Him in a dream like He did with his forefathers Abraham and Solomon? Mountains have always represented the ‘horizon’ of Divine encounters, both in the Old as well as the New Testament.

Moses before the burning bush, by Feti-Domenico

Moses before The Burning Bush, by Feti-Domenico

Prophets of the Old have conversed with Yahweh upon the threshold of great mountains, and Jesus the ‘ultimate prophet’ found Himself upon the mountains for perfect prayerful silence, manifestation of His glory, defeating the evil allure of ‘the enemy’ and finally laid down His life upon the ‘high rock’ of sacrifice for this Lamb of God. Moses’ ascent to the mountain in one way represents the need for man to rise up to the place of holiness from the ground level of all earthly allure. God engraves The Law on stone, and if we look at this work of hands with the eyes of faith in order to read the Words of Jesus to Peter, there is a unique caricature of “Upon this Rock I will build my Church.”

The Ten Commandments given to Moses were meant to build a scattered nation, whose faith, hope and strength was broken by the whip and whim of their task masters in Egypt. Their spirit grew weary and fragile as they dangled onto a slender thread of faith in the God of their fathers, who promised to send them their ‘deliverer’. Yahweh who was known by the gentiles as the ‘God in the wilderness’ replenished these spiritually starving people who have been wandering with the heat of anger over the tiring exodus, with His Word as Law written on a rock. This rock in a way becomes an iconic foundation upon which God’s wisdom and teaching is laid to build a new people of unwavering hope, faith and uprightness.

Jesus and Peter

The Law of the Most High is the equilibrium between heaven and earth, made eloquent in the prayer of Jesus to His Father at the behest of His friends, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Therefore, Jesus Himself summarizes all of the Old Testament Law into two pragmatic Divine canon – “Love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ He continues to say, “There is no greater commandment than these” (Mark 12:30-31). ‘Cephas’ (Greek for Peter) who is now ‘The Rock’, is not a stone tablet but is rather a living and principle model to the new Church of Christ Jesus, for cheerful obedience to His life giving Law / Commandments.

My friends, Jesus who Himself began His public ministry by ‘fulfilling all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15), tell us in today’s Gospel that He has not come to abolish The Law given to His ancestors, but to fulfill them. Jesus who is the New Law, draws all men of good will out from the slavery of sin and bondage to worldliness, into the ‘Promise Land’ which is the ‘New Jerusalem’. By His own authority declares in His first appearance in a Synagogue; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” We become rightful heirs of the Apostolic Church which draws its seed from The Rock called Peter, when we choose to live and fulfill the Law of love who is Christ Himself.