June 13, 2012 - Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church

1 Kings 18.20-39
Psalm 16.1b-2ab, 4, 5ab+8, 11
Matthew 5.17-19

This saying of Jesus today is a difficult saying. He tells us that until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or part of a letter will pass away from the law. Yet we believe that many letters of the law do not apply anymore. We do not keep the ritual cleanness demanded by the law. We do not rest on the Sabbath. We eat many forbidden things. How is this possible?

Jesus says that he came to fulfill the law. He fulfilled the requirements of ritual cleanness by the grace of baptism which cleans a person once and for all. We do not rest on the Sabbath because we have entered into the rest that is found in Jesus. We eat pork and lobster and other things because God declared such things were clean, so they no longer are unclean. The laws did not change, but the world that they apply to is changed in Christ Jesus.

Which makes us wonder, why not all of the law? If I can eat shrimp and wear 50%-50% wool/cotton mix pants, why is it still wrong to worship other gods or for a man to treat another man as a woman? Because in Christ Jesus, the truth was made more visible, not less. In truth, shrimp is good food. That it was ever forbidden must have been because of particular circumstances. In truth, there is nothing wrong with mixing fabrics or eating cheeseburgers.

But in truth, God is the only god. To worship someone else is a lie. In truth, marriage is a relationship based in gender-difference. To pretend otherwise is a lie. Every law that revealed the truth must remain and indeed the obligation is stronger than before inasmuch as the truth is now more fully revealed. Every law which was arbitrary no longer applies, for Jesus has fulfilled the meaning behind those laws perfectly.

The arbitrary laws, which could have gone either way logically speaking, carried the principles of obedience, purity, and community. Because everyone lived under such laws, the Israelites were bound together into a community that obeyed God and was pure of defilement. It took over a thousand years, but these laws worked their effect. But when Jesus came, our obedience is in following him, our purity is in choosing him and no one else, our community is sacramental, bound together by love. The point of these laws has been fulfilled and the truth more fully revealed.