For Catholics, it isn’t enough to just know and follow the rules.
Journey with America’s editors as they reflect on Scripture, prayer, fasting and almsgiving both in written form and on “The Word” podcast. Find all the reflections and more Lent resources here.
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
“Do not think I have come to abolish the laws,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel. “I have come to fulfill it.” Jesus doesn’t mean that he’s come among us to issue a new set of rules. He means that his whole existence—his life, death and resurrection—are the fulfillment of the law. That’s what it means when the priest concludes the eucharistic prayer with the words “through him, with him and in him.”
Law must always be rooted in truth. But for Christians, truth is a person—Jesus—who is the way, and the truth and the life. God has communicated his very self to us through a person, his only begotten son. To put it another way, it’s not ultimately about rules, but relationship. Rules are important, but they only exist to safeguard loving relationships. The Catechism is not a penal code, but our guide to a life lived in love.
Pope Francis has called on all of us to repent of this mistaken notion that being a Catholic means simply knowing and following the rules. The pope isn’t saying that the rules are wrong, only that they are not the essence of our faith. Our relationship with God is and ought to be the essence of our faith.
At the heart of our Church, then, is not a law, or an idea or an ideology, but a person named Jesus Christ. And just as he is the fulfillment of the law, we find our fulfillment only in Him.
More from America: