Jesus not only tells his disciples that he has not come to abolish but to fulfill the law, he constantly teaches how this is true, models how to put his teachings into practice, and empowers them to do so. In his Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plain alone, we can see the development of his teaching and building on the foundation of the Torah. With his Beatitudes, such as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, and his Six Antithesis including, “You have heard that it was said ‘an eye for an eye,’ but I say to you offer no resistance to one who is evil”, we can see the further development of Jewish teaching on full display.
If we seriously take the time to read through Jesus’ teachings, we will see quickly how challenging they are. Jesus is not lowering the bar of discipline for his followers, but in fact, raising it. Jesus is not putting heavy burdens on us for burden’s sake, he seeks to make us holy. He himself lives what he preaches, but Jesus is no ordinary teacher or mentor. The principles that he teaches, forgiving seventy-seven times, loving our enemy, giving up all to follow him, these seemed impossible to his disciples then and to us today as well.
At face value, we may think that many of Jesus’ teachings are not possible to put into practice or very practical in our day and age. Attempting to do so with our willpower alone may lead to coming up short each time, and feeling more frustrated. Jesus does not expect nor desire us to accomplish living as his followers on our own efforts. We are to yolk ourselves with him and be open to the transforming power and love of the Holy Spirit acting through us. This happens when we daily invite Jesus into our lives and are humble enough to follow his lead.
We become a disciple of Jesus when we are willing to study his life, learn and put his teachings into practice, and surrender ourselves to his will through prayer, discipline, worship, service, and participation in the sacraments. Ultimately though, it is nothing we do, other than opening our hearts and minds to and allowing Jesus to live his life in and through us so that he may direct us to go outward to empower and serve others. In this way, we are transformed by his love and conformed to his life such that we can say with Paul, it is no longer I who live but Jesus who lives in me (cf. Galatians 2:20).
The path of faith is not a sprint or a one-time event, but a marathon, a journey. Each one of us can be assured that Jesus is with us for the long haul, every step of the way. What we continue to experience with the unpredictability of the Corona Virus can certainly tempt us to still be anxious and fearful. But when we resist these temptations and refuse to make decisions from a fearful or reactive state, but instead lean into Jesus and each other, we will not only make healthier decisions, we will make it through each day together, no matter what arises.
As vaccines are getting out, we still need to be aware and careful, to continue to wear our masks, wash our hands often, and keep social distancing intact. It is also good to embrace some of the opportunities this last year has given us to slow down, to appreciate simpler entertainment, spend some more time at home, and connect with those important to us. Hopefully we have become more aware of and provided aid to those around us, and reassessed or are reassessing what is truly important in our lives. Not knowing what tomorrow brings may help us to realize we never really did. We can take comfort in trusting more in the one who does know what tomorrow will bring.