Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J. writes:
The key to understanding the Bible and the Judaeo-Christian religion is the realization of the truth that God reveals Himself gradually and progressively according to our need and capacity. The Gospel for today confirms and reiterates this truth. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5: 17-19)
The law Jesus is talking about, of course, is the law that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai: the Ten Commandments. (Deut. 5: 6-21) These laws are still valid today. And they will always be valid because they are part of the natural law, the conditions necessary for human beings to live together in society in peace and in justice. The media remind us every day of the tragic things that happen when these laws are not observed.
Jesus did not come to abolish these laws but to fulfill them. And he tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law. When he was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, he said, “You shall love the lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22: 34-40) There are really three laws not two; two are explicit and one is implicit. We are commanded to love God, our self and our neighbor. And it is the indissoluble bond between the love of God and love of self and neighbor that is the key to making love the fulfillment of the law.
But Jesus went even further. He made Himself the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And his Father confirms this. At the Transfiguration Jesus is transfigured between Moses and Elijah. Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the prophets. And the Father said, “This is my beloved son, listen to Him.” God’s revelation is now moving from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, from the law to love.
Jesus is the personification of love and the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is both the fullest expression of the love of God for us, and the fullest expression of the human response to that love. In Jesus, the medium is the message. The entire content of Christianity has been abstracted from the person and life of Jesus. The whole content of Christianity can be expressed in one word, Jesus. When you’ve said Jesus you’ve said it all.
Our moral life is influenced more by significant persons in our lives, and how closely we identify with them, than it is influenced by explicit moral laws and instructions. Therefore, we should strive to know Jesus more intimately, love him more ardently and follow him more closely. To be a Christian is to be committed to Jesus. And since Jesus is God, it means with the totality of the First Commandment. You shall love Jesus with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole mind.” The essence of being a Christian is to have an intimate personal relationship with Jesus.
Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust. I love you:
let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.
I worship you as my first beginning.
I long for you as my last end.
I praise you as my constant helper,
and call on you as my loving protector.
Guide me by your wisdom,
correct me with your justice,
comfort me with your mercy,
protect me with your power.
I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
my words: to have you for their theme;
my actions: to reflect my love for you;
my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
I want to do what you ask of me:
in the way that you ask, for as long as you ask,
because you ask it.
Lord, enlighten my understanding, strengthen my will,
purify my heart, and make me holy.
Help me to repent of my past sins,
and to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weakness
and to grow stronger as a Christian.
Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
and see myself as I really am:
a pilgrim in this world,
a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch,
those in authority over me or those under my authority,
my friends and my enemies.
Help me to conquer anger by gentleness,
greed by generosity,
apathy by fervour.
Help me to forget myself and reach out toward others.
Make me prudent in planning, courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.
Keep me, Lord, attentive in prayer,
temperate in food and drink,
diligent in my work,
firm in my good intentions.
Let my conscience be clear,
my conduct without fault,
my speech blameless,
my life well-ordered.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me, keep your law,
and come at last to your salvation.
Teach me to realise that this world is passing,
that my true future is the happiness of heaven,
that life on earth is short,
and the life to come eternal.
Help me to prepare for death with a proper fear of judgment,
but a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death
to the endless joy of heaven.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Attributed to Pope Clement XI (1670-1676)