Bishop Carl Wright
Today’s Gospel: Matthew 5:17–19
Today’s food for our Lenten journey comes from the Master Himself: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5: 17-19).” First, the context of His remarks. It’s immediately following His 40-day temptations in the wilderness and His subsequent call of Simon, Andrew, and the Zebedee brothers. It’s the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 through 7). Jesus climbed a mountain to get away from it all; but His rapidly increasing followers followed Him. These original hearers had temporarily lost their way. They had “erred and strayed like lost sheep…and followed too much the devices and desire of [their] own hearts (BCP 41).” They had arrived at a a place in their life where they could no longer distinguish between what’s legal and what’s illegal. There had been so many generations since God had delivered them from slavery that they’d forgotten Moses’s original intent when he brought God’s Laws down from Mount Sinai/Mount Horeb. They were following Jesus because He might have been the only hope they had.
In other words, the context in which Jesus’s original hearers found themselves was not unlike our own. It’s obvious that our nation has lost its way. Consensus has broken down. We are fractured and divided. Our children are not being raised in the faith. The opioid epidemic threatens us. Americans kill themselves at the rate of 123 per day. There are more Black men in jail than in college. Homelessness, loneliness, and alienation are commonplace. We use our smart technologies to limit interpersonal relationships and retreat into our own carefully selected worlds. We insist on proving others wrong to make ourselves look right. And lost young men assassinate their peers. These are sociological symptoms of spiritual decay – symptoms of a mess from which no law can redeem us!
In today’s teaching, Jesus invites us to focus not on laws or rules or even symptoms; for in so doing we can get bogged down and lose our way. But if we focus instead on Him, we will see that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything that is good and true. We will understand that loving the Lord our God and loving our neighbours as ourselves” is how we “fulfill all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22: 36-40).” I suggest that Lent is the optimal time to climb the metaphorical mountain and meet Jesus there. We traditionally equate our 40-day Lent with Jesus’s 40-day temptations and Israel’s 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. But, today we could resolve to accept the Lord’s invitation to ascend the mountain where the air is clearer and healing may be found. While the journey may be difficult and tiring, it’s worth it. For, when we get there, we will see His face, and hear His voice, and be saved.
Dear Lord Jesus, who in the spirit of your ancestor Moses, ascended the mountain to meet the Father and receive His Laws: Please give us the strength so to climb our mountains that we may follow you and see the fulfillment of the Law. Amen.