Letter and Spirit

Last Updated on July 28, 2023 by GMC

“Letter and Spirit”
A reflection on Matthew 5:17-20 and John 20:22
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
©2023 Gloria M. Chang

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. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:17-20

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:22 (RSV)

Living Letters

The law exposes the infinite breach between humanity and God but cannot heal it. Like the letters of a DNA molecule, the letters of the law contain the recipe for life but cannot create it. Letters have no power to regenerate persons. Only a personal God can vivify the letters of the law. The Son and the Spirit, sent by the Father, bring the law to fruition.

In Christ, God becomes man, deifying and transfiguring flesh. Animated by the Spirit of God, the letters of the law come alive, forming a face and a heart. Law and love fuse in the Word, with tears and a smile.

You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.

2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Letter and Spirit fuse in the Word—
The Second Person breathing the Third.

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