The words uttered by the Lord Jesus, taken from the Evangelist St. Matthew, are not perhaps what we might expect from the gentle Jesus, Divine Mercy Incarnate. In our popular piety, we have become used to the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the image of Jesus, the healer and Lord of life, He who is Love Himself. Yet, in today’s Gospel, we hear the following challenging words: 

“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 the kingdom of heaven.” 

The Lord Jesus demands of us who call ourselves Christians to follow his commandments and, if we do not follow the paths which he has laid out for us, he who cannot deceive or be deceived, is rather blunt and honest — there will be consequences, eternal consequences. Listen to the words of the

Lord himself: 

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. 
But I say to you, 
whoever is angry with his brother 
will be liable to judgment; 
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ 
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; 
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ 
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” 

With this in mind, perhaps we should consider two realities: first, the demands and the joys of the Commandments, each of which are not, ultimately, burdens, but true freedom and joy; and second, the fact that there are consequences, eternal consequences, based on the way we live our lives right here, right now. 

First, the law and the prophets, the words of the Lord, Divine Revelation, transmitted through Sacred Scripture, are not optional. The commands of the Lord are truth and, as the Psalm which we proclaim this day of the Lord reminds us, “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!”

Yes, the Commandments given by the Lord God of All Creation on Sinai to Moses still apply to each and every one of us. And, adding to the Old Law is the New Law Himself, Jesus Christ, the model and exemplar of the Beatitudes. We are called to observe the words of the Law and the Prophets, and, as Christians, inheritors of the New Covenant by our baptisms, we are called to transcend a simple observance of the Law, but to adhere to justice and mercy made flesh, Jesus. To phrase it perhaps a bit simply: The Commandments of the Lord are not mere suggestions. It is necessary for us to understand that these Commandments are not merely obligations, but are designed to make us grasp the love of the Lawgiver himself and to be of service to the People of God. 

Second, what are the consequences of not observing the commands and dictates of the Law, most especially the Lord Jesus’ new law of love? Sadly, there are eternal consequences; the Church still holds the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Christians will be judged by one question, according to the Carmelite mystic and Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross: “How have you loved?” There are no after death conversions; with every moment of our lives, the Lord Jesus offers us the opportunity for conversion. 

Yes, the Lord Jesus offers us a “wisdom to those who are mature,” as our epistle from 1 Corinthians tells us, a wisdom which requires both adherence to his commands and to his love.

“If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; 
if you trust in God, you too shall live; 
he has set before you fire and water 
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. 
Before man are life and death, good and evil, 
whichever he chooses shall be given him.” 

Choose life! Follow the Commandments of the Lord!