Jesus teaches us how to overcome sin

| Deacon Marcus Milless | February 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

bigstock-Jesus-Christ-On-The-Old-Paper-45542848_webOn the Mount of Beatitudes, Jesus teaches the crowds about the new law of Christian living. But he stresses that the Old Testament law hasn’t passed away. In fact, he says the old law is alive and well. “I haven’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17). If we read the rest of the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that he fulfills the obligation of the Ten Commandments — he honors God, keeps holy the Sabbath, honors his mother and father, and doesn’t murder, commit adultery, steal, lie or covet. Yet, is this what Jesus means by fulfilling the law?

Jesus gives us the answer in the same passage: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment,’ but I say to you . . . whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”

For Jesus, fulfilling the law requires more than abiding by the Ten Commandments. It requires that we root out the very cause of our sin. In this sense, Jesus makes the law more difficult and demanding. How can we meet these demands? By relaxing the demands? No, brilliant teachers don’t relax the laws that bring their students to encounter the truth, even when their students don’t understand how the law connects to the truth. Rather, they enter into the hearts and minds of their students, see their stumbling blocks, and charitably help them overcome those stumbling blocks. Christ Jesus is no different in this manner. He is able to reveal to us the little sins or stumbling blocks that keep us from fulfilling the big commands.

Jesus isn’t naïve, though. He knew that simply teaching the cause of sin wouldn’t be enough to help us overcome the power of sin. So, Jesus entered into sinful humanity, suffered and died to win for us the grace to overcome our sin. In this way, he is unlike any brilliant teacher; he is the Son of God made man, whose love gives us the grace to fulfill the law. Without his love, the new law is impossible to fulfill.

The sacraments we receive are signs of Christ’s great love for us. They give us the grace to live in union with him. The six moral precepts of today’s Gospel measure how we are responding to that grace. For they measure how we receive Christ’s love and share it with our neighbors. When we fail to meet this measure, we need to turn to the Spirit, “who scrutinizes everything” to give us the grace to encounter Christ’s love anew. If we do this, we will experience fulfillment.

As St. Paul beautifully describes, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Deacon Milless is in formation for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home parish is Church of the Epiphany in Coon Rapids, and his teaching parish is St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo.


Sunday, Feb. 16
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • Sirach 15:15-20
  • 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
  • Matthew 5:17-37


How does Jesus challenge us to fulfill the old and new laws? How can we successfully do so?


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Category: Sunday Scriptures