Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent

Posté par diaconos le 10 mars 2021

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I  did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

# Substitution theology, or substitution theory, or super impressionism is a doctrine that Christianity has substituted itself for Judaism in God’s design. In the middle of the second century, Justin of Nablus (100-114 – 162-168) defended Christianity against a fictitious Jewish interlocutor, claiming that the Church was the true Israel. For his part, in the second century, Marcion advocated a wholesale rejection of the Judaic influence on the Christian faith. Marcionism was condemned in 144.

The theology of substitution took an enormous place among the Fathers of the Church: considering that Israel had not converted, since it had not recognised the Messiah, they affirmed that its role was finished, and that the Christians had to replace it. This doctrine was developed by several authors, including: Tertullian (born around 150-160 and died around 230-240) in Carthage. John Chrysostom (349-407), Patriarch of Constantinople, Augustine of Hippo (354-430). In Catholicism, the authorship of substitution theology is generally attributed to Paul of Tarsus. The Council of Florence in the fifteenth century reaffirmed the theology of substitution.

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From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew

At that time Jesus said to his disciples: « Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. Amen, I say to you, before heaven and earth disappear, not one jot or one tittle will disappear from the Law until everything is fulfilled.
Therefore, whoever rejects one of these least commandments, and teaches men to do so, will be declared the least in the kingdom of Heaven. But whoever keeps them and teaches them will be declared great in the kingdom of heaven. «  (Mt 5, 17-19)

Jesus came to fulfil

Jesus did not come to abolish, but to fulfil; no part of God’s law will pass away until all is fulfilled; to break it or to keep it is to be small or great in the kingdom of heaven: and those will not enter it whose righteousness does not surpass that of the Pharisees. What is this superior righteousness, how should the law be interpreted ? Jesus showed this through a series of examples taken from the moral law.

First example : interpretation of the fifth commandment. The law says : « You shall not kill », and the murderer is punishable by judgment. But I say to you that anger or words of contempt or hatred against a brother are a violation of the law and deserve condemnation. No act of piety is possible with these feelings: first go and be reconciled with your brother. Agree quickly with your adversary, while it is time, lest you be condemned.

Second example : interpretation of the sixth commandment. The law says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’; but I say to you that to look upon a woman lustfully is to violate the commandment. It is in the heart that evil must be uprooted, even if it means a sacrifice like plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand. The Law permits divorce, but I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for infidelity, will commit adultery.

Thirdly exaple : the law forbids perjury and commands to keep oaths faithfully, but I say to you, do not swear at all, neither by sacred things nor by earthly things, but be content to affirm the truth by a yes or a no.

Fourth example : It has been said, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’; but I say to you, do not resist the wicked, suffer insults and losses, give and lend liberally.

Fifth example : It has been said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’; but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who curse and persecute you, and pray for them, so that in this way you may be sons of your Father, who gives to all the marks of his goodness. What reward is there for loving those who love you? The supreme goal is the very perfection of God.

If we consider that Jesus characterised the true members of his kingdom, those who hunger and thirst for justice and whose good works men must see, and that he expounded the spirit and practice of this true justice as formulated in the divine law, we will be convinced that there is an intimate link between these two fundamental thoughts.

From this point of view, we understand all the more clearly the statement that he, the Messiah, did not come, did not enter into his ministry to abolish the law or the prophets, as the Jews thought, expecting that their Messiah would transform the whole law. The law and the prophets are the whole Mosaic economy and all the revelations of the old covenant, either as institutions or as holy scripture.

He taught, revealed the full and spiritual meaning of the divine law, which Pharisaism had materialised by its doctrine of outward observances.
He Himself fulfilled the law perfectly by His holy life.
He realised, by all His work and especially by His death, the complete idea of the Old Covenant, with its types, figures, sacrifices, promises and hopes.

This fulfilment, in a higher and more perfect sense, is in turn accomplished by the Gospel of Christ in the hearts of believers. Thus Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets in an organic and living way, as the flower fulfils the bud, as the fruit fulfils the flower. And if we look further ahead, we can still expect the fulfilment of the most excellent thing in the present economy, our communion with Jesus, the joy of his redeemed ones : « I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete » (Jn 15, 11).

One of the least of these commandments is what Jesus referred to as an iota or stroke of a letter. To violate or abolish it in this way, and to teach others to do so, is to expose oneself to occupy only a very inferior degree in the kingdom of heaven.

The expression which Jesus used, He shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, does not mean that he shall be excluded from eternal bliss (Augustine, Luther, Calvin), which is contrary to the terms; it does not mean that he shall have but a small share in the happiness to come (Meyer), for the Gospel does not teach that there shall be various degrees of that happiness. It means that he will have only a lesser share and an inferior role in the establishment of the reign of God on earth (B. Weiss).

He who believes that he can work more effectively in the work of this reign by freeing himself from obedience to the commandments which seem secondary to him, by abolishing them in his conduct and precepts, is mistaken. It is faithfulness in small things, the scrupulous fulfilment of humble duty, that makes one fit for the kingdom of God. Moreover, these commandments must be considered in their spirit and as a whole, which forms an inviolable whole, the will of God.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

Reflections on the sacred liturgy : click here to read the paper → Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

◊ Holy Peter and Paul  : click here to read the paper →  Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

   St. Ferdinand, St. Gregory & Holy Redeemer

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