There is a difference between building a home and building a house. There is a difference between being faithful to a spouse and simply staying married to the same person. There is a difference between being a good driver and never having an accident.
There is a similar difference between upholding laws and fulfilling the law. The state law is there to be upheld. God’s Law is given to be fulfilled. Beneath the words “abolish” and “fulfill” in today’s gospel are two very different approaches to the Law which God gave to His chosen people Israel. The word translated “to abolish” has the sense of annul, repeal, or declare invalid when used with respect to law.
In His great sermon on the mount, Jesus is saying much more. He is the One to whom the whole of scripture points and for whom Israel longs. He is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel. This lived relationship comes to its full potential in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. What follows then are examples of how Jesus lives out that covenant relationship with His Father as we also are called to live.
The distinction between merely upholding the Law and actually living the Law in its deepest sense expresses in concrete terms who we are called to be as His disciples. Fulfilling the Law of God means living out the Law. Habitual acts and words reveal our inner self. They make known our relationship with God. We are asked today; “How I respond to God’s tender and particular love for me?” Such a response ought to be nothing less than whole-hearted as Jesus reminds His disciples, including you and me: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So often in so many areas of our lives we can just get by, maybe through cleverness and shrewdness. But we are called to so much more than merely not getting into trouble of one kind or another. Indeed the grace of God won’t keep you out of “trouble”. In fact, it might well get you into trouble! God’s grace and mercy are not simply aids to help us keep up outer appearances. It calls us to interior transformation of mind and heart, of character and authenticity, which makes Jesus and those who follow Him faithfully “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world“.
In fulfilling the Law, Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him including our faithfulness to His teachings, which is reflected in the way we live our lives. He calls us to live our His Laws not merely as in a house but as in our home.