Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent, March 15, 2023

What is the meaning of the commandments to us? To some, they are the summary and summit of all morality; to others, narrow and outmoded rules; still to others, obstacles to the freedom of the gospel.
To Israel, they were the expression of fidelity to God and to the whole people as part of God’s covenant. They were the road to freedom from all forms of slavery: to other gods, to selfishness, to exploitation of one person by another. They were the signs of belonging to God and God’s nearness. And they were witnesses that love of God and love of neighbor cannot be separated.
In Christ, all this is fulfilled, and more. The commandments remain, but they become a basic step not to salvation by observances, but to seeking communion with God in Christ and communion with our neighbor, animated by love.

Opening Prayer
Lord, our God,
you have given us your commandments
to set us on the road of freedom
from all forms of alienation.
May we learn to obey them
not to save ourselves by observances
nor to do you favors,
but to be free for you and for people
and to live in your love,
with Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen!

1 Reading: DEUTERONOMY 4:1, 5-9
Moses spoke to the people and said: “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the LORD, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today? “However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

Responsorial PSALM 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you. R.

He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
He spreads snow like wool;
frost he strews like ashes. R.

He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. R.

Verse Before the Gospel: See JOHN 6:63c, 68c
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!

Gospel: MATTHEW 5:17-19
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Accompanying in humility
“Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:19
The theme of both readings of today is the Law. The Lord gives the Law to his people with an attitude of closeness. They are not the prescriptions of a far-away dictator. Our God is the God of nearness, a God who walks with his people and falls in love with his people. Falling in love is a phrase often used to refer to the love between life partners, where the lovers are willing to give in and give up everything else for the beloved. This love and closeness always bring with it some vulnerability.
Pope Francis develops this theme and says, ‘Walking with his people and falling in love with them, God makes Himself vulnerable. The closer He comes, the more vulnerable He seems. When He comes among us, to live with us, He makes himself a man, one of us: he makes himself weak and takes up that weakness to the point of death – the most cruel death, the death of the greatest sinners. He humiliates Himself to be with us, to walk with us, to help us.
How often in life do we simply go through the rituals of being Christians? Sitting in Mass on Sundays, saying a quick prayer at night before falling asleep, giving up sweets or Facebook for Lent without really thinking about what Lent is all about…and these make me feel happy for fulfilling my obligations of a good Christian. Jesus challenges us to move away from our superficialities to fully enter into a relationship with God. Following the commandments and observing the rituals of the Church alone do not make us faithful to Christ.
When I profess to be a Christian but ignore and forget the commandment of Christ to love my fellow brethren, am I not a hypocrite? Christ teaches us to love God through our love and concern for those around us. How often have we ignored them? Our regular attendance to the Sunday liturgy and external displays of religiosity would be a counter witnessing if we move about with a foul mouth, gossiping and deceiving those around us. Have you come across Christians who refuse to go back to the Church because of the anti-witnessing of the regular church-goers who scrupulously follow the rules?
If we want to follow Jesus and lead others towards Jesus, today’s Gospel has a proposal: Be close to our fellow brethren, fall in love with them and be vulnerable and humble. God wants us to accept the life proposal he sets before us and lead others into the same life principles; he wants us to be called the greatest in his Kingdom!

– That we may learn to look at the commandments not as obstacles to our freedom, but like the people of God of old, as guidelines for fidelity and freedom, we pray:
– That we may not get entangled in the letter of the law, but serve the Lord with the freedom of the sons and daughters of God as Jesus teaches us in the Gospel, we pray:
– That we ask ourselves not so much of what must we do but rather what can we do for the love of God and people, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God,
you are near to us
in your Son, Jesus Christ.
May he make us aware
of the price he paid for our freedom.
As we sit at table with him,
may he give us the grace and strength
to give you a response of freedom,
that with him, we may love you
as your sons and daughters,
now and for ever. Amen!

Prayer after Communion
Lord, our God,
you have chosen us to be your people.
May your Son be alive in us,
that with him, we may be faithful to you
and march forward together
to build a land of freedom
and to share with one another
until you share yourself with us for ever.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen!

Let the great commandment given to us by Jesus guide our life and make it beautiful and rich: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself, with the blessing of the Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Sprit. Amen!

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