The New and the Old Law

Friends in Christ, today Our Lord tells us that he came, not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. St. Thomas Aquinas says (tour of Summa, p. 171) that the Old Law was meant to repress passion and prevent sin, yet it could not give the grace that one needs to reach heaven. The needed grace and power to attain holiness came with the New Law, which is the Law of Christ.
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The Old Law CAN refer to the 10 commandments, which are requirements in the moral life. Jesus told the rich young man that to be saved, he had to keep the commandments.’ The moral law, given by the commandments, could never be abolished, but it has been raised to an even higher level of love by Christ.
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The Old Law can also refer to the ceremonials and rituals of the Old Testament – in particular circumcision – and these are no longer essential. Circumcision was merely a sign of God’s covenant; but the New Law has fewer rituals and gives real power. Circumcision was replaced with Baptism, which is not a mere sign, but confers the power of grace – enabling one to actually live the commandments.
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St. Paul says that the Old Law was like a teacher for children, guiding the human race along in preparation for Christ. (Galatians 3:24) As we know, children usually act simply out of obedience and rules. But when grown up, they are to learn to do what is right out of love.
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Some adults continue to see the moral life as simply following rules. They ask, ‘Is this a mortal sin?’ Upon hearing ‘it is not a mortal sin,’ they will happily commit it. Such a person is trying to follow rules, rather than loving God. A person who is living the Law of Christ, seeks to be holy in all things – not simply ‘stay within the rules.’ We are living the Law of grace when we act out of a desire to please our Heavenly Father.
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Even Catholics must be careful not to fall into a mindset of the Old Law – of simply following rules, rather than loving God and neighbor. Young people sometimes ask, ‘How far can I go on a date?’ But this is to see morality as following rules. The virtue of chastity does not ask ‘how close to sin can I get,’ the virtue of chastity wants to always be pure and good in order to please God.
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During this season of Lent, we can’t help but consider the sins and mistakes of our life; but the New Law of grace gives us hope, because we can begin again, and do all our actions for the glory to God.

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