This post is just a thought piece on the development/changes Jesus made to the law of Moses during the Sermon on the Mount. We will not be diving into the theology on the development of doctrine nor how it relates to Vatican II. What I want to do is see how Jesus deepens Moses’s law but also rejects some of it as a standard for Christian living. This can give us insight into the developments brought about by Vatican II, and how the shock of true God given change could have been startling to the Jews even during Jesus’ own life. In this way, we will not be afraid of the development brought about by Vatican II.
Douay-Rheims Mt 5: 21-45
(In this teaching Jesus extends the Mosaic Law deeper)
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift. Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing.
(In this teaching again, Jesus extends the Mosaic Law deeper)
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.
(Here Jesus rejects the Mosaic allowance of the bill of divorce – we may note that allowing a bill does not mean Moses thought divorce was a good thing)
And it hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.
(Here Jesus again rejects the Mosaic form of swearing. – at least at first glance, because when we dig deeper we know that the Church still uses oaths (a seeming contradiction to the words of Christ) – Hence the Church does not use oaths indiscreetly or rashly)
Again you have heard that it was said to them of old, Thou shalt not forswear thyself: but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord. But I say to you not to swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God: Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king: Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.
(This teaching Jesus rejects only to take it further)
You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other: And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two, Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.
(This final teaching on our list Jesus deepens)
You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you:
In conclusion, 3 times Jesus deepens the law of Moses and 3 times rejects it as a standard for Christians. In the rejection of the bill of divorce when can easily end up in difficulties thinking that Moses taught evil about divorce and have to go into theological conversations to solve the problem talking about permissive versus positive willing and hardness of heart . In the rejection of oaths, we also have to dig deeper to avoid difficulties as we still swear oaths in the Church. (like the 3 vows in religious orders or a marriage vow!) In the rejection, of the eye for eye law it is also necessary to qualify why God would allow that law in the first place. On top, of these difficulties some of the laws Jesus mentions that are contained (or thought to be in Moses law) are not exact quotations which leaves room for even more debate as to what Jesus was doing and what Moses actually taught. In the times that Jesus deepens the law, it begs the question why Moses did not teach that in the first place. There are great commentary on the subject so I will stop here and leave the rest to you.
All in all, we need to apply the same logical thought to Vatican II. If something seems off or contradictory with the past we have to use our brains and dig deeply like we must to solve the above problems on the sermon on the mount. We should not simply say Vatican II said oaths are bad then because we still say oaths proclaim it was false. Dig a little into the subject – that is the message. You will find that Vatican II was like Jesus, it deepened what needed to be deepened and cut away what it morally and lawfully could be that was not unhelpful for us.