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Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: The Law


(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)


            In most countries one can often hear that the interpretation of the “Law” is in the bosom of the court. This may be true for some people living in a particular country but when it comes to God’s children, it is better for us to adhere to God’s laws. God’s laws are the laws that give one an absolute assurance that once kept and lived will leads a person to heaven. There are some countries whose laws can be anti-heaven. For example, how can one adhere to a nation whose laws have ensconced immoral behavior and think that (s)he can make it to heaven? Or, how can one practice euthanasia and expects God to open his arms for him/her to heaven – God’s commandment is clear, “thy shall not kill.” Unlike other laws, God’s command to his children are not meant to oppress, kill, and enslave but to renew, restore and redeem.

            The first reading depicts the incomparable superiority of the divine command over all human wisdom. The great nations have their laws and have thought their way to a degree of human wisdom. These laws are modified to conform to changing times and circumstances. In contrast, the law God has issued for Israel is immutable – nothing dare be “added to or taken away from it”, for it originates in the eternally valid vitality of the law-giving God himself. Even though Israel is a small and politically insignificant nation, the “great nations” cannot avoid recognizing the law given by God as more than other human legislation and the nation that lives according to God’s law as “wiser and more intelligent” (in divine things) than other nations, who perhaps have recognized much of his wisdom. For the cultural formation founded on God’s law is not merely human culture, rather, it is a wisdom of the heart growing out of obedience to him. Israel’s cultural formation consists in its being a form of God. For the law to be divinely oriented, its interpretation should be in the hands of God and not human. This makes it wrong for the legislative authority of Israel to deem itself wiser than Jesus.

            In today’s Gospel the inspired writer presents us with discourse that seems to discuss the interpretation of the Law. The Pharisees and Scribes believed themselves to be the authorized agents for the interpretation of the law. They had the effrontery to challenge Jesus on observance of the Law. Jesus used the occasion to educate the Pharisees, the Scribes and his hearers. Jesus explains in drastic terms what he has in mind: foods that enter a man from the outside do not defile. And evil is all the more evil when it comes out of a heart in which God’s living, incarnate Word has taken root as law. On the other hand, whatever originates from or is inspired by the Word of God living in our hearts is part of what St Paul calls a “reasonable” or “meaningful service or worship of God” (Rom. 12:1), whether it is spoken or done with direct reference to God or as part of everyday human existence.

            Let us conclude with the second reading and note that when it comes to God’s Word, it is no longer merely spoken as instruction for us, rather, it is now “rooted in the heart”. Having become so much internalized, more than ever it must not only be “heard” but acted out, in order that the living Word of the Father might truly bear divine fruit worthy of God. Jesus in our hearts is certainly a fulfillment rather than an abolishing of the law’s guidance (Matt. 5:17), and this fulfillment certainly extends far beyond the Old Testament faithfulness to the law (Matt 5:20). For the word spoken to us from outside has now become an inwardly rooted Word. Let no one force you to live your life by an “evil” or satanic law but rather allow God’s word to permeate the entirety of your life. May God’s law be a light for your path.


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