Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus promises that he has not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Matthew says that Jesus went up a mountain, sat down, and commenced to teach, calling to mind Moses, who went up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God.
Therefore, Jesus is being presented here as the New Moses who will promulgate from this Galilean mountain the definitive Law. I realize that this immediately poses a problem for contemporary readers, who are put off by a religion that leads with laws, rules, and prohibitions. An Irish wag once summed up the Catholicism that he was taught with this phrase: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was no!”
Since the Ten Commandments have been honored mostly in the breach, why should anyone think it a good idea to introduce new and even more stringent laws? But then we attend to the first word out of the mouth of the lawgiver: “Blessed,” “Happy.” The law that the New Moses offers is a pattern of life that promises to make us happy.