Transformed: How to Live a Christ-Centered Life

User’s Guide to Sunday, Feb. 12

Christ came to fulfill the Law, and as our union with Christ grows more perfect, we also fulfill the Law.
Christ came to fulfill the Law, and as our union with Christ grows more perfect, we also fulfill the Law. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, Feb. 12, is the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37 or Matthew 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37.

The Gospel for Sunday’s Mass is from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The Lord is drawing a picture for us of the transformed human person.

He sets forth the principle “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill [the Law].” To “fulfill” means to fill something until it is full; to exceed the minimum requirements. When we fulfill the Law, we enter into the full vision and meaning of the Law. He then gives us some examples of what it means to fill the law full:

Regarding the Fifth Commandment, it is not enough to refrain from murder. The Lord teaches us that the commandment has a deeper meaning. What leads to murder? Is it not the furnace of anger, retribution and hatred within us? Anger resulting from our perception of injustice is not condemned here. Rather, the anger that is condemned is that which is born of hate and vengeance; anger that goes so far as to wish harm to another or to deny his human dignity — this is what leads to murder. That the Lord has this sort of anger in mind is revealed in the examples he cites, which use the words Raqa and fool. Such words express deep contempt.

To the degree that we allow Christ to live in us, we cannot hate others. How can I hate someone Jesus loves?

Regarding the Sixth Commandment against adultery, it is not enough to not commit adultery. True life in Christ means that I am chaste and pure even in my thoughts. By God’s grace, I can have authority over what I am thinking and shun unchaste thoughts. So the commandment against adultery is not merely about transgressing marital boundaries. To fill this Law fully means to be chaste in all matters, in mind and in heart. By his grace, we shun pornography and do not actively fantasize about others in a sexual manner. Hence, not only are our acts pure, but so are our minds.

Regarding divorce, at the time of the Lord Jesus, divorce was permitted in Israel, but a man had to follow certain rules. But the Lord says that to fulfill the marriage law is to love your spouse. He teaches that when he begins to live his life in us, love for our spouse will grow; love for our children will deepen. Divorce won’t even occur to us! Who wants to divorce someone he or she loves?

Regarding oaths, the people of Jesus’ time had lots of legalism associated with oaths and lots of tricky ways of watering down the truth. The Lord says, just be a man or woman of your word. When Jesus begins to live his life in us, we speak the truth in love. We are faithful to our commitments. We do not lie; we don’t “play games” with the truth. As Jesus lives in us, we become the truth, speak the truth, and live the truth. This is the gift that Jesus offers us here.

In all these ways, the Law is not merely kept; it is fulfilled.

It is filled fully, in that all these implications are abundantly and joyfully lived out as Christ transforms us. Christ came to fulfill the Law, and as our union with Christ grows more perfect, we also fulfill the Law.

For what Christ does, we do; we are in him and he in us. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).