Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mt 5:17-19 Change and Continuity

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine
“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.'”
In all periods, societies have always divided themselves on the issue of time: some people would place their hopes in the ideas of the future, and some would cling to the ideas of the past. In the times of the gospel, the Pharisees instructed their communities to follow the ideals of the past, recalling the brave deeds of the Maccabees who fought and died for the Law in the 2nd century BC. Opposing this emphasis on tradition, the Sadducees pledged their support to the kingdoms of the future, like Greece and Rome, who ironically fought against those same Maccabees. After the resurrection of Christ, Christians throughout the ages would debate on whether to maintain the practices of the past or embrace the practices of the future. When these sides could not come to an agreement, schisms would occur: in the first millennium, the Eastern Orthodox church broke away; in the second millennium, Protestant churches broke away, resulting in a cascade of innumerable denominations breaking off forever afterward. For most societies today, these two sides take on a more political character, with conservatives on side and liberals on the other; the former usually tries to 'conserve' the past while the latter tries to 'liberate' the future.
Although most people usually identify themselves as somewhere in between the conservative and liberal positions, their circumstances will usually force them to choose one or the other. This choice usually comes down to self-interest: those who profited from past systems usually want to keep it that way, and those who lost in those past systems will want to change it. Until “all things have taken place,” until Christ returns at the end of the world to redeem the rest of humanity, this tussle will rage on and on, leaving everyone dissatisfied and often tiring out the parties involved.
Only in Jesus will all men find rest, particularly in the quarrel between past and present. Because Jesus transcends time—His sacrifice at Calvary happens for all time, past, present and future—He allows his followers to do the same. This does not only happen on a metaphysical level, when souls pass into eternity, outside time, but also on a practical level in regards to history, inside time. Jesus states that He has “come not to abolish but to fulfill [the law and the prophets].” He does not come with some brand new idea that would supplant the old one, like a false messiah, nor does He come to repeat the old ideas, as the prophets did; He comes to make new sense of the old idea. The Old Testament makes little sense without Jesus, and Jesus makes little sense without the Old Testament. He does not represent the past, as the Pharisees, nor did he advocate the future, as the Sadducees. He stood for the present, the unobservable continuation of time between past and future. Hence, both the Sadducees and Pharisees could find the will to come together to condemn Him to crucifixion.
Continuity defines Jesus' ministry, and it defines His Church. Continuity allowed Jesus to conserve the law while liberating it. It allowed Jesus to unite the old Jewish communities with the new Gentile communities to form the new church which would realize the hopes of the old one. When Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to the Church, He allowed this continuity to empower the church in spreading the gospel to “all the ends of the earth.” Like a vine, the early Church spread throughout the Roman Empire, with all the branches united to the stems, the stems connected to the trunk, the whole organism sustained by the continuity of Christ. Barnabas and Paul did not make new churches, but enlarged the same Church that started with Jesus. When some of their communities opted for the old ways, like the converted Pharisees requiring circumcision (Acts 15:1-5), or the new ways, like the Greeks thinking Paul and Barnabas were new gods (Acts 14:8-18), Paul had to redirect them to continuity of Christ, which transcended these misconceptions. Hence, the people in Antioch simply started calling themselves “Christians,” people who took in all time as Christ did.
The very life of the Church depends on this continuity. Movements that espouse a complete break from the past will often leave the world in flames; consider the carnage of the thirty year war, the French Revolution, the World Wars, and Totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. In a similar way, movements to preserve the past also exact a price on peoples; consider the slavery of New World colonies, or the archaic tribalism of the developing world keeping the majority their populations in bondage and ignorance. Despite their gleaming rhetoric, history has shown that hoping in future utopias or trying to restore past glory inevitably leaves the world fractured and in the dark.
Even the Catholic Church wrestles with this issue. On one side, some liberal Catholics hope in a utopian Church embracing all new ideas indiscriminately; on the other side, some traditional Catholics try desperately to restore the Church that existed before Vatican II, dismissing all new ideas indiscriminately. Neither side should hold sway: the liberal vision would lead to a church without Christ, and thus reason to exist; the conservative vision would lead to legalistic church incapable carrying out Christ's mission to all peoples. Rather, Catholics today should recognize the wisdom of the past while acknowledging the challenges of the future—they can take their cue from the popes, including Francis, who nearly all embody this approach.
Sometimes the continuity of Christ is a narrow way between polarizing divisions that grow as the world grows more and more uncertain. Fortunately, Christ Himself will help navigate through this path, since He Himself is the path and the guide all in one. At the end of this lies mankind's salvation.


  1. Benedict:

    Excellent thoughts. When I think about fulfillment of the law! I think of the purpose behind the law. As an attorney, it's easy to get caught up in legalism which I think so much of the old law was built on. The purpose of God's law, in my opinion, is love. Love that is directed towards the good of the other. So Jesus came to show us the purpose of the law. Justice Brennan used to call this the "spirit of the law." But the laws are important. They provide us the path to holiness

    1. Agreed. Any law requires not only obedience, but understanding, to truly succeed as a law (see Plato's Republic and Crito). Public order draws its strength from the free will of its members, not their enslavement; therefore, using force to maintain order will never succeed, or only succeed partially, while using truth and love can bring about perfect order (see Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical "Love in Truth"). For this reason, I believe that governments, even the best ones with the best laws, cannot bring about perfect order from their citizens, but can only contain chaos a little better corrupt governments. In response to this, they introduce education and other such structures, but these also fall short since they only affect the material side of individuals, not the spiritual side, the side that considers the spirit of a law. This produces a relativism in people, who fail to properly evaluate and understand a law on the basis of objective truth.

      The spirit of the law depends on the spirit of the lawgivers and law-followers. Only the Church can claim authority in spiritual matters--however hard governments try to abrogate that authority. Only the Church, with the Holy Spirit, can unlock the potential of humanity, and she can only do so if her members embrace the continuity of Christ and hope not in the future or the past, but in the eternal present.

    2. Well said. I think the problem today is that the positive law does not reflect the natural law. Law makers and citizens alike have allowed their hearts to be closed to what they know is the Objective Truth. We don't have to look any further than the 55 million people that have been killed since the legalization of abortion, Recall in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, how Justice
      Kennedy opined that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, of the mystery of human life.” In our self proclaimed enlightenment we have rejected what we intrinsically know is the Objective Truth and replaced it with the god of
      self. Individual freedom has become the ultimate criterion of right and wrong. We must return to a society where the positive law reflects the natural law which is part of the eternal law.

    3. Too true. It becomes harder and harder to appeal to natural law since people have lost the concept of what constitutes natural. People fail to realize how artificial these modern constructs are: pro-choice, redefining sex and marriage, secularism, etc. These things do not proceed naturally, but result from the idea of defining the world in our own image, not as it is. Furthermore, because these things are unnatural, they lead to the death of culture. All the things that held the culture together (morality, family, religion, wisdom) disintegrate for the sake of the all-consuming ego.

      Catholics would do well to relearn natural law, of which St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of at length. We were created to do Good and seek God's face, not change our very essence. Of course, they should probably see the limits of natural law and learn of Divine law too--or else risk the heresy of Pelegianism.

    4. I had not heard that word in a while -- Pelagianism. Thank you for reminding me of it. The fall is the quintessential self-deification, don't you think?
      The serpent says, "God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” Father Barron, whom I enjoy immensely, says "The basic sin, the original sin, is precisely this self-deification, this apotheosizing of the will." He goes on to quote Casey as well. That case was so disappointing on so many levels, not the least of which was that Justice Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion, purports to be a Catholic! What I have been finding lately is that a complete emptying of self is necessary to conform to the Divine Will in all things. The life God intended for us is so beautiful and so holy. I don't know why we make it so hard. Christ has given us everything we need to live in the Divine Life if we just say yes to Him.

  2. "People fail to realize how artificial these modern constructs are: pro-choice, redefining sex and marriage, secularism, etc. These things do not proceed naturally, but result from the idea of defining the world in our own image, not as it is. "

    Many species exhibit a wide variety of sexual behavior, I would say those things proceed naturally. Marriage is not purely a christian institution, other cultures have had some version of marriage since before christianity began. I'm not sure what you mean by secularism not proceeding naturally, why would keeping religion in government be natural while keeping it out not be?

    "Furthermore, because these things are unnatural, they lead to the death of culture."

    Also unnatural: medicine, vaccination, clothing, agriculture, construction, technology, etc. Do these lead to the death of culture as well?

    1. Yes, marriage is natural, so there will be many societies that embrace that institution, Christian or not. Still, what should we say of those societies that reject marriage? In my opinion, they cripple themselves. The family structure breaks down, which leads to a general moral structure breaking down, which then leads to the legal structure breaking down. It's like a person rejecting the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables. First, the bodily functions depending on those nutrients break down, which then leads the body breaking down. In the former case, it's not a matter of keeping religion in government, but staying true to what nature intended. It's called natural law because man reaches it naturally, Christian or not. Supernatural law pertains to divine revelation from God. Here, the sacramental aspects of marriage would be articulated.

      Medicine and technological improvements do not violate nature. They restore what is natural to the person. They improve a person's quality of life. Contraceptives and abortions do not do this, but rather prevent life or destroy life. I strongly recommend the following article on the meaning of what is "natural":

      Religion is natural to man. Man was made to love and serve God. To deny him this right to practice religion is to deny his nature. Politics is natural to man. To deny him to assemble and create laws is to deny his nature. Heterosexual marriage and family are natural to man. To deny him this (or discourage it through redefinition) is to deny his nature. Life is natural to man. To deny him this is to deny man altogether. Secularism, in its desire to squelch religion and morality in the public and private sphere, often denies man's fundamental nature. All societies that have adopted this anti-natural stance, societies that have dissolved the institution of marriage, promoted infanticide, persecuted religious communities, and fabricated a utilitarian morality based on the appetites than on nature, inevitably decline.


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