An Authoritative New Law

June 27, 2024
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor—Optional Memorial

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When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28–29

These lines conclude the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5–7. In that lengthy sermon, Jesus touches on many topics and presents us with a summary of all we need to know in our lives of faith. In these concluding lines of His sermon, the words “astonished” and “authority” should stand out. Why were the crowds astonished at Jesus’ teaching? Because His teaching was new and relied upon a new authority that the people hadn’t experienced before.

The authority with which the scribes taught was based upon their knowledge of the traditions handed down to them from earlier teachers. The scribes studied long and hard and then presented what they had learned. This was the form of religious teaching that the people were used to receiving.

Jesus, however, arrived on the scene and astonished the crowds, because He spoke with a new authority that they had not seen before. Jesus’ authority came forth from His very Person. It was not based upon what He had studied and learned from those who preceded Him. Instead, when He spoke, it was He Himself Who was not only the mouthpiece of the New Law of grace, He was also the Author of the Law and its source.

Try to ponder the idea of authority. For example, a child knows that a parent has authority over them. They may not like it at times, but they understand that they do not set the rules of the house but must abide by the rules set by their parents. Or consider the authority of civil leaders. Law enforcement officers, for example, have an authority entrusted to them by their office. They are not only well versed in the rule of law, they can also enforce it and everyone knows it.

Similarly, Jesus did not just know about the new and glorious truths He taught. He did not simply learn them from the Father in Heaven and then pass them on verbally. Instead, when He taught, He did so as the One Who knew the New Law of grace, the One from Whom it originated, and the one and only Person sent to enact and enforce this New Law.

Reflect, today, upon the New Law of grace and mercy taught by our Lord, especially as it is contained in the lengthy Sermon on the Mount. Reading those words is much more than something we study and learn. The words themselves are alive; they are the Word of God. Reading them makes present to us the same authority that the crowds experienced in Jesus’ time. Everything Jesus taught was and is new, deep, profound, transforming and alive. And when He teaches it, He also establishes His divine authority to enforce it upon the world. This is good news, because His New Law is not an imposition; it is the one and only source of freedom and new life. Reflect upon this New Law of our Lord and pray that you will more fully come under its authority.

My glorious Lawgiver, You taught as One with authority. Today, as Your holy Word is read and proclaimed, You continue to exercise Your new and glorious authority of love and mercy. Please help me to listen to You and to always submit myself to Your authority so that I am governed by Your New Law of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor

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Featured image above: Jesus teaches, via Adobe