The Ministry of Jesus Christ – The Fulfilling of the Law


“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:21-48

Jesus came not to abolish the Jewish law, but to carry it on to perfection. Hence He adds to the external mandates of the Jewish covenant a discipline of the heart. It is not sufficient to abstain from revenge and from adultery: the Christian law enforces charity and purity of word and thought as well as of act.

The law of Christ includes all the precepts of the Jewish law. Those commandments respecting purity of intention and the absence of thoughts of evil which the Pharisees slighted, our Lord declares to be so important, that whoever shall break one of them deliberately, or teach others to do the same, shall in the Kingdom of Heaven be held of no account, and be thrust out from the presence of God. Are there any precepts of the law of Christ that I think little of or recklessly violate?

In old time it was the act of violence that was forbidden. But our Lord says that any one who shall give way to anger or to a desire for revenge in his heart, or say contumelious words to others, shall be liable to the judgments of God. Is not this warning suitable to me, who so often yield to unkind, resentful thoughts, and a desire to take vengeance on those who have offended me?

In old time the act of unchastity was forbidden. But Christ reminds His disciples that a deliberate desire is a serious sin against chastity in the sight of God. Am I as careful as I ought to be to avoid all unchaste thoughts and all occasions that are likely to give rise to them?

MLA Citation

  • Father Richard Frederick Clarke, SJ. “The Fulfilling of the Law”. The Ministry of Jesus Christ: Short Meditations on the Public Life of Our Lord, 1892. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 April 2019. Web. 4 August 2021. <>