Jesus taught his disciples that faith consists of not only outwardly observing the commandments of God and the law of Moses, but that it’s more important to live in spirit and in truth, and that this is the rule of life by which our everyday decisions are to be made. A mere formal observance of the precepts of the commandments and laws is simply not enough, because a person’s heart can still be attached to evil in one’s intentions. God wants our hearts to be purified of evil and free from other snares that could lead us to slavery to sin and unhappiness. True Christian liberty therefore comes from not only observing the rules of religion, but by internalizing them through the grace of God, so that they are written in our hearts and minds, and exemplified in our daily lives.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill. The fulfillment Jesus speaks of is a more perfect way of observing the commandments. Indeed, it is not enough just to avoid evil and thus perform the outward requirements of the law, because a man can perfectly follow all the commandments and never break them, yet in his heart he can continue to harbour all sorts of evil desires. By recognizing the enduring importance of the commandments, loving them and happily following them, changes them from outward duties into words of life through which our lives become fuller and more beautiful. This exalted way of living the commandments leads us to true freedom of spirit that makes us more accountable to God, others and ourselves, and provides for joy and peace.
Jesus proposes a higher standard in order to exercise freedom in greater perfection. He makes the commandments even more specific than the Decalogue. For Christians to opt for anger, insult and rejection of others are evil choices that violate the fifth commandment and diminish love for one’s neighbour, which is the essence of the commandment Thou shall not kill. Concerning the sixth and ninth commandments, lustful desires are already adultery in the heart. By making the immoral desire one’s goal, this reduces the human person to an object, thereby depersonalizing the person, which makes our hearts impure. Finally, Jesus points to truth and sincerity as better guarantees of honesty than oaths. The Christian, who is truly free, loves others, as well as justice, purity and truth.
Christian freedom comes from God and is given to us through his Spirit. Where the Spirit is, there is true liberty. It is the freedom of the children of God who do not need other laws to behave well. As Christians, they have the law of the Spirit.
In our prayer to God today, let us ask him to chisel out of our “hearts of stone” all pride, prejudice, violent and lustful thoughts, lies, deceit, bad language and selfishness. May he enlighten our hearts and minds through the light of the Holy Spirit so that we may find our fulfillment in God and not be foolish and uncontrolled persons, but rational beings enlightened by faith and motivated by love. By allowing the Spirit of the Lord to take hold of our lives, we will no longer be influenced by evil or sinful desires in any form. Instead we shall be shaped into dignified human beings, sons and daughters of God, who live according to the freedom that Christ has won for us and for which we have been set free (Cf. Gal 5:1).