June 12, 2019
Brothers and sisters: Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life. 2_Cor_3:4-11
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. Mt 5:17-19
Imagine someone having a long and complicated discussion, and you happen to walk in right in the middle of it all. You might recognize a few words like “letter” and “glory,” but even that can be pretty confusing. Is it an alphabet letter, or a personal communication letter, or are they the letters of a “qualification,” like an MD or an RN?
Paul has them all covered in this little piece of his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians.
Then, in the Gospel, we find Jesus also talking about “letters” today. And we all know what it means when someone says the “Letter of the Law.” But this little piece of Jesus’ discussion with His disciples can be just as confusing.
So, how can we make any sense of it?
Well, let’s first, put both readings in perspective. And the perspective IS, that both readings are Responses to problems.
Paul’s problem was that, being a good distance away from his infant Church in Corinth, he came to learn that some of the non-believing Jews there, were discrediting his credentials to preach and were discouraging the new Christians.
You see Paul didn’t have those big fancy “letters” after his name. And his only means of communication with the Corinthians was by “letter.” So, like Jesus, Paul defended himself by referring to the “letters carved in stone,” those 10-Commandments, that the non-believing and “lettered” Jews held in such great esteem.
As a reference, Paul made the comparison of the “fading glory” that one receives by the simple act of obedience to those laws, versus the “eternal glory” we receive from the Holy Spirit, through our belief in Jesus. The fading glory disappears with the very next sin, while the eternal glory remains, despite our setbacks, because the Spirit is always there to lift us back up.
Then, Jesus’ problem, as always, was the misinterpretation of the Law and the misunderstanding of who Jesus was, by the Pharisees. You see, the Pharisees went so far beyond the “Letter of the Law,” those same 10-Commandments, that they insisted on following some 600-additional laws. There were so many laws, that they lost sight of what the original-10 were all about. And keeping a law at the cost of hurting, or even killing a neighbor – was not what God originally had in mind with Moses.
So when Jesus said that the most important laws were to “Love God and to Love our neighbor,” that didn’t override the 10-Commandments, it actually reinforced them.
And then Jesus said that our obedience to those 2-simple rules of Love, which were supposed to be the whole basis for the other 600+, would certainly gain us all the credentials we need for living in God’s Kingdom. Those credentials, those “letters” are exactly what we gain through our Life in the Spirit.
They are the letters of: Love, Joy and Peace; of Patience, Kindness and Goodness; of Faithfulness, Humility and Self-Control. And it’s in them that the Glory of God radiates from our faces and makes even the most confusing of Letters as clear and as simple as:
I Love You.
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