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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

BASICS OF CATHOLICISM: 22. THE THIRD, FOURTH, FIFTH AND SIXTH COMMANDMENTS OF THE CHURCH: PART 5: SUMMARY OF THE COMMANDS: CHRIST THE GOAL OF THE LAW

       Over the last several installments (19 in all!) we have looked at the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Church in detail – describing each of these commandments and precepts in reference to a relationship with God in love. To that end, it is fitting that we would give a summary of the commandments and precepts this way: that Jesus came not to abolish but to fulfill the law and the prophets (in Matthew 5:17); or as in Romans 10:4, that Christ is the “goal” of the law. To consider Jesus as the goal or fulfillment of the law carries two related meanings. First, that Jesus came to “fulfill” the law and the prophets is rightly understood that in His very person He fulfills the Old Testament (the “Law” and the “Prophets”) as the giver of the new and eternal covenant that fulfills and exceeds the old – as He is the only source of salvation. Second, and more to the point of the commandments themselves, to call Jesus the fulfillment or “goal” of the law expresses that lived faith in Jesus Christ fulfills the law.

       Throughout this series we have been seeking to consider the way of relationship with God in love as the true goal of religion. In the context of Jesus Christ as the goal of the law, we first want to simply and beautifully acknowledge that Jesus, out of love for us, came to fulfill the law through His saving works – that you and I who are weighed down by our sins might be made free. He accomplishes such fulfillment by His coming in the flesh, giving His life for us on the cross, through His rising from the dead, ascension into heaven, and sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We for our part accept and embrace this love of Christ in faith, (through baptism and through living in accord with Christ and His Church) receiving freedom from sin and death so as to live for God. Practically speaking, the acceptance of the love of Christ is found in the keeping of the commandments and the precepts of the Church not for their own sake (as the law by itself has no power to save), but as the way to remain in the love of Christ and the forgiveness of sins that was first given to us in our baptism.

      As an attempt to clarify these points, consider the image: When it comes to our eternal life and the need of a savior, you and I were born into this world ill in sin, and Jesus is the only healer of this illness. In order to receive the healing medicine of Jesus that He offers in His works, we are to accept His works in faith – which begins in baptism and is lived in the life of the Catholic Church. However, to rightly benefit from the medicine we must freely accept that He alone is the healer and giver of the medicine, living in according with His giving of this healing (lest we do not receive it rightly or, having received it initially become sick again [and in even worse condition]) by not remaining true to what is offered). If we say “we believe” in Him but do not fully accept what He offers us, we might think we are healed but we will not receive its full effect. If we attempt to take the medicine without His healing power being relied upon (as by living lives which we ourselves consider good, not in relationship to Jesus or His Church) we may appear to gain some benefit, but will not actually be healed – as it is Jesus Himself who is the source of the healing and giver of the medicine (and not we ourselves).

    This image hopefully helps to show how Jesus Himself is the true fulfillment of the law – who gives us a share in His divine life and aids us to remain in this divine life. Thus, as we now shift our focus to sacraments, the divine life of Christ (grace) is of central interest – as it is in the sacraments that we receive Christ so as to live true to the love for which God made us – as the fulfillment of the law and as life lived to the full, healed from sin.

 

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