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Pope Francis Explains What It Means That Jesus Came to Fulfil the Commandments

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 12.02.2023).- The Holy Father addressed some 20,000 people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, in his traditional Sunday talk before reciting the Angelus Marian prayer. Focusing on the Gospel of the 6th Week in Ordinary Time, the Pontiff answered the question: What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the Law (the Commandments) and the Prophets? 

Here is the text in English, translated from the original Italian by the Holy See. 

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In the Gospel of today’s Liturgy, Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17). To fulfil: this is a key word to understand Jesus and His message. But what does this fulfilment mean? To explain it, the Lord begins by saying what is not fulfilment. The Scripture says “Do not kill,” but for Jesus this is not enough if brothers are then hurt by words; the Scripture says “Do not commit adultery,” but this is not enough if one then lives a love tainted by duplicity and falsehood; the Scripture says “Do not bear false witness,” but it is not enough to take a solemn oath if one then acts with hypocrisy (cf. Matthew

To give a concrete example, Jesus concentrates on the “rite of the offertory.” Making an offering to God reciprocates the gratuity of His gifts. It was a very important rite — making an offering to reciprocate symbolically, let’s say, the gratuitousness of His gifts — so important that to interrupt it was forbidden other than for serious reasons. But Jesus states that it must be interrupted if a brother has something against us, in order to go and be reconciled with him first (cf. vv.23-24): only in this way is the rite fulfilled. 

The message is clear: God loves us first, freely, taking the first step towards us, without us deserving it; and so we cannot celebrate His love without in our turn taking the first step towards reconciliation with those who have hurt us. In this way there is fulfilment in God’s eyes, otherwise external, purely ritualistic observance is pointless, it becomes a pretence. In other words, Jesus makes us understand that religious rules are necessary, they are good, but they are only the beginning: to fulfil them, it is necessary to go beyond the letter and live their meaning. 

The Commandments that God has given us must not be locked up in the airless vaults of formal observance; otherwise, we are limited to an exterior, detached religiosity, servants of “God the Master” rather than children of “God the Father.” Jesus wants this: not to have the idea of serving God the Master, but the Father; and this is why it is necessary to go beyond the letter.

Brothers and sisters, this problem was present not only in Jesus’ time; it is here today too. At times, for example, we hear it said, “Father, I have not killed, I have not stolen, I have not harmed anyone . . . ,” as if to say, “I am fine.” This is formal observance, is satisfied with the bare minimum, whereas Jesus invites us to aspire to the maximum possible. That is: God does not reason with calculations and tables; He loves us as one who is enamoured: not to the minimum, but to the maximum! He does not say, “I love you up to a certain point.” No, true love is never up to a certain point, and is never satisfied; love always goes beyond, one cannot do without it. The Lord showed us this by giving His life on the cross and forgiving His murderers (cf. Luke loved us (cf. John

So, brothers and sisters, we might ask ourselves: how do I live my faith? Is it a matter of calculations, formalism, or a love story with God? Am I content merely with not doing harm, of keeping the “façade” in good order, or do I try to grow in love for God and others? And every now and then, do I check myself on Jesus’ great commandment, do I ask myself if I love my neighbour as He loves me? Because perhaps we are inflexible in judging others and forget to be merciful, as God is with us.

May Mary, who observed the Word of God perfectly, help us to give fulfilment to our faith and our charity.