Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Today's Mass Readings



[Jesus said,] “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17, RSV)

A reading from the Tractates on Matthew by St. Chromatius of Aquileia:
“He fulfilled the law and the prophets in this way: He brought to pass those things that had been written about him in the law and the prophets…”

Let’s stop right there. Did you notice it? He said it so simply. It is a concept that we are so used to hearing. The concept is: fulfillment. The coming of the Christ is intertwined with the notion of scriptural fulfillment. St. Chromatius states simply that Jesus fulfilled the scriptures by bringing them to pass. But how did he bring them to pass? Let’s read on:

“…Hence, when he drank the vinegar offered him on the cross, he said, ‘It is finished,’ (Jn 19:30) evidently to show that everything written about him in the law and the prophets had been completed, even including the drinking of vinegar…”

St. Chromatius interprets Jesus’ beautiful and mysterious words from the cross to mean that everything was now finished (fulfilled): his life, deeds, teaching, and even his crucifixion. But how was his drinking of vinegar a fulfillment of the scriptures? The persecution Psalm reads, “…and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” (Ps. 69:21, RSV) Does Jesus fulfill the scriptures merely by reenacting them? Let’s read on:

“…He fulfilled the law at any rate when he completed by the sacrament of his passion the once prefigured mystery of the paschal meal. Consequently, the apostle says, ‘For Christ our paschal lamb has been sacrificed.’ (1 Cor 5:7)”3

St. Chromatius arrives at the pinnacle fulfillment: the paschal meal (Passover) in the Exodus story is “fulfilled” by the passion and death of Jesus, “our paschal lamb.” But Jesus fulfilled it in a way unexpected and beyond it.

Reflection: Though stated simply, the concept of fulfillment quickly becomes complex. It demands intimate knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments. I leave you with this to ponder: “Christian faith recognizes the fulfillment, in Christ, of the Scriptures and the hopes of Israel, but it does not understand this fulfillment as a literal one. Such a conception would be reductionist. In reality, in the mystery of Christ crucified and risen, fulfillment is brought about in a manner unforeseen. It includes transcendence.”4

Reflection by Brother Luke Kral, OSB

[3] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, vol. 1a. Manlio Simonetti, InterVarsity Press, 2001. p. 96.

[4] The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible. The Pontifical Biblical Commission, 2001, paragraph 21. Freely available on the Vatican website.

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