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A Higher Law

This weekend’s Gospel is very challenging. Even though Jesus has been proclaiming God’s forgiveness and questioning the Pharisees’ rigid interpretation of the Mosaic Law, he takes this occasion to warn his followers that he hasn’t come to do away with the Law or any of its commandments.

On the contrary, he wants to establish an even higher standard. Whereas the old commandments say that it’s a sin to commit murder or adultery, Jesus tells us that it’s a sin even to be angry or lustful.

The Mosaic Law allowed for divorce, but Jesus tells us that there’s no divorce in God’s eyes. Most of the commandments were really designed to set a minimum standard: to establish the basic things that people really had to do in order to please God and the things that they really shouldn’t do if they wanted to avoid God’s anger.

But Jesus taught that, while these kinds of rules may be useful guidelines, God is more concerned with the bigger issue of whether or not we really love the way we should. And love, by its nature, never just wants to do the bare minimum. Someone who loves wants to do everything they possibly can. They’re willing to go the extra mile.

The real essence of the commandments is to share in God’s own love and that love is truly perfect. It doesn’t have a limit. It’s always striving to do more.

We shouldn’t set limits on our love. We shouldn’t exclude anyone. We shouldn’t stop where we’re comfortable. Whenever we’re tempted to draw a line, the higher law encourages us to go beyond it.

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