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Understanding the Spirit of the Law

Homily for Thursday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time

St. Paul uses images from the Hebrew Scriptures to explain the situation that he and the early Christian Church are currently dealing with in coming to understand how Jesus has changed things by initiating a new covenant. The parallelism in these verses makes it necessary to interpret corresponding parts in relation to one another.

He begins by remembering the veil that covered the face of Moses after he had seen the Lord on the mountain. He uses that image to imply that the children of Israel could not see clearly and consequently misunderstood the covenant. He then says that this situation continues to this present day. However, he then maintains that through Christ and the Holy Spirit, the veil has been removed. Consequently, those who have received the Holy Spirit are able to understand that our lives are changed by the new covenant. We are now free from the burden of the Law. The Holy Spirit has made it possible for us to understand what is entailed in a right relationship with God.

The Gospel passage asks us to continue to apply the metaphor of the veil to our understanding of the commandments. The veil hides the inner spirit of the Law and only reveals the letter of the Law. Our freedom in Christ and the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to understand the kind of relationships we are called to form.

The commandments of Exodus are all about relationships. The first three commandments concern themselves with our relationship with God. The last seven commandments concern our relationship with our neighbor. Forming right relationships opens our minds to an understanding of the true glory that God reveals to us in his Word.

We have long used the commandments whenever we examine our consciences. Such examinations must go beyond the letter of the Law and plumb the depths of the spirit of the Law.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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