In this week’s Gospel passage, Jesus delivers a powerful teaching on the Law. Jesus makes it clear that the Old Law will not go away in the New Covenant, but instead, the truth at the heart of the Law will be restored and deepened. In this lesson, students will contemplate together the meaning of the Law and Jesus’ teaching regarding how the Law pertains to our lives today.
Teachings about the Law
Insert Liturgical Connection Title Here
This lesson is for:
- Have your students read the Gospel passage, or read it aloud to your students, and then answer the focus questions. You may have students answer them on their own or you may discuss them together as a class.
- Arrange your students into small groups. Assign each group one of Jesus’ teachings about the Law (teaching about the Law, teaching about anger, teaching about adultery, teaching about divorce, or teaching about oaths). Then, have each group reread the portion of the Gospel reading that pertains to their assigned teaching and answer the questions from the What’s Old is New activity. (Note: This activity involves discussion of divorce and other potentially sensitive topics. Handle this subject charitably.)
- When complete, call on groups to share and discuss their answers. Students should fill in the rest of their What’s Old is New worksheet based on the answers from the other groups.
- Jesus was not eliminating the Law of the Old Testament or the teachings found in the Old Testament. Rather, all that Jesus did was a fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament.
- While Jesus makes it clear that the Law is still in place, He emphasizes that the Law is meant to change our hearts and teach us to love God and neighbor. For us to enter Heaven, we must not just follow the Law blindly, but allow it to transform our lives for the better.
- Jesus begins His teachings with what the people know (or think they know) and then deepens each teaching.
- Accept reasoned answers.
What’s Old is New
Teaching about the Law — Matthew 5:17-20
- The Old Law has not been abolished and will not pass away until the end of time.
- Whoever breaks the least of the commandments and teaches others to do so will
be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever obeys and teaches these
commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Jesus specifically teaches that the Old Law has not been abolished. But He
reinforces the reward and consequences of keeping and breaking the Law.
- He challenges us to keep even the smallest of the laws and to be more righteous
than even those considered to be the most righteous
Teaching about Anger — Matthew 5:21-26
- You shall not kill, and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
- Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Therefore, if your brother has harmed you, settle with them first before doing anything else.
- We will still be judged if we kill someone.
- We shouldn’t be concerned only about not killing others, but about how we treat others.
Teaching about Adultery — Matthew 5:27-30
- You shall not commit adultery.
- Everyone who looks at a woman (or man) with lust has already committed adultery. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away because it is better to lose an eye or a hand than to go to Hell for your sin.
- The physical act of adultery is still a sin.
- Jesus challenges us to control our thoughts and desires, which can not only lead us to the physical act of adultery but can be sinful in themselves
Teaching about Divorce — Matthew 5:31-32
- Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce (in other words, have a good reason).
- Whoever divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- This teaching is challenging because it seems as if Jesus is canceling out the old teaching. In a certain sense, He is canceling the Law of Moses, which permitted divorce, but He is returning to the original law of God from the very beginning, with Adam and Eve.
- Jesus challenges us to maintain our commitments in marriage and love.
Teaching about Oaths — Matthew 5:33-37
- Do not take a false oath and keep the vows you make.
- Do not swear at all. Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.
- Jesus is implying that many people make trivial oaths and vows and then fail to keep them because of their trivialness. It is better not to take an oath at all if that is the case, so as to keep any oaths that are made holy and sacred.
- Jesus challenges us to be true to our own word.
- Note: This week’s Gospel is especially long and may prompt questions about divorce and other potentially sensitive topics. Handle this subject charitably.
- Read the Gospel passage aloud to your students as they follow along. Then discuss the focus and reflection questions with them as a class.
- Have your students complete the Jesus Explains the Law activity.
- When they are done, call on volunteers to share their pictures, and answers, with the class.
- Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
- Jesus said: “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
- Accept reasoned answers.