Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua
Psalm 16:1b-2ab, 4, 5ab, and 8, 11
Time for Another Look
Jesus says that he has come not to abolish but to fulfill the law and the prophets. He is referring to our Old Testament: especially the first five books of our Bible (what Jesus’ contemporaries knew as The Torah, or The Law, and the Prophets). From our New Testament it is clear that Jesus was well acquainted with these writings, which He frequently quotes.
Many twenty-first century Catholics and other Christians have little familiarity with these foundational books. In these books, we learn of God’s choice to make Israel a great nation through whom God would make himself know to all nations.
Teachers and preachers who have insisted on the absoluteness of “God’s Law” without putting the Law and the Commandments into their proper context have often bred the discomfort many Christians feel about the Law and the Commandments.
On Mount Sinai ‒ after God had led the Chosen People out of slavery in Egypt; protected and fed them in the dessert; and continued to guide them toward the Promised Land ‒ God offered to Moses a covenant by which the Israelites could continue in God’s good graces and thrive as a people.
The requirements of the Covenant are summarized in the Commandments. The first three explain how to behave toward God: fidelity to their exclusive relationship; respect in using God’s name (knowing one’s name gave a person power over that person); and taking time to reflect on God’s goodness even as they had a day of rest. The rest of the Commandments are instructions on how to live in peace with one another. This is not a recipe for oppression! Rather it is a path to personal freedom.
Maybe it is time to take another look at our Scriptures…
Fr. John M. Lee, C.P., is Retreat Director of Bishop Molloy Retreat House, “The Passionist Spiritual Center in New York City”, www.bishopmolloy.org