Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses' face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory. Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory.
Exalt the Lord our God;
bow down before Zion, his footstool.
He the Lord is holy. (R./)
Among his priests were Aaron and Moses,
among those who invoked his name was Samuel.
They invoked the Lord and he answered. (R./)
To them he spoke in the pillar of cloud.
They did his will; they kept the law,
which he, the Lord, had given. (R./)
O Lord our God, you answered them.
For them you were a God who forgives;
yet you punished all their offences. (R./)
Exalt the Lord our God;
bow down before his holy mountain;
for the Lord our God is holy. (R./)
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. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
If St. Paul's epistle reflects serious tensions, today's Gospel seeks harmony and enlightenment. As a wise man wrote, "There is a time for everything. A time to tear, and a time to sow. A time for war, and a time for peace." How well that idea of "a time to plant and a time to uproot" fits with our Lord's words today. In order to fulfil the Law and the Prophets he must uproot whatever is old and obsolete, to help us embrace the new. We are not to follow a dead code of law that has lost its meaing but a new living law of the Spirit. Paul calls us, like the Corinthians, to make a clear decision to move ahead.
Still, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. We need to discern which old things are not yet obsolete, such as the ten commandments. This applies to many aspects of Church life, where some want to conserve traditions of the past which others consider overdue for renewal or outright discarding. Wiithout yielding to mere whims or short-term decisions, our Church needs to take on board some values, mainly democratic and participative, of our modern society, in order to share Christ's mind with our contemporaries. But Jesus and Paul tell us that it is the Spirit who gives life, so we must not be rigidly bound by rules which made sense to our Church in the past but which no longer offer hope for the future. With this outlook we can have mature discussion about the way forward in presenting the Gospel in ways required by the time in which we live. We must rely on prayer, dialogue and the guidance of the Holy Spirit who has called us to share in the responsibility of helping to build the Kingdom of God.
As a devout Jew, Jesus was respectful of his own Jewish tradition. Matthew has him say, "don't imagine that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets." But he also declares that he has come to complete the Law and the Prophets, to bring their true intention to fulfilment. Jesus valued the good in his religious tradition, but was also open to renewal, since God was always prompting people forward.
We too are called to respect the real values in our own religious tradition, while facing up to the shadow side to that tradition and being open and receptive to ways that can make that tradition intelligible for today. God is like the potter who reshapes what is there and make it better. The Spirit is always at work; our task is to keep up with what God is trying to do.