Fr. Don, while preaching on the first reading (Dt 4:1, 5-9), talked about the Israelites. This passage from Deuteronomy ends the “historical part” of Moses’ words and begins his presentation of the law/statutes to the Israelites.
One topic of concern for the Israelites as they were searching for the promised land was: “How do we know God exists? How can we be sure of his presence among us?”
The answer for them wasn’t simply that they lived perfect and faultless lives; they didn’t. But they tried. What assured them of God’s presence was the very fact that they were striving towards that goal of perfection.
The true pursuit of holiness is holiness.
I love what Moses tells the Israelites: God gives us laws that we must be faithful to, “that [we] may live.” The promise of the law is life–life in God.
Moses tells the Israelites that they must follow all the statutes of Almighty God–which he goes on to present–if they want to receive that land which He promises. Of course, the promise that Moses explains is the inheriteance of land. God’s promise to us is a land that isn’t on earth.
In the Gospel (Mt 5:17-19), Jesus explains that he did not come to abolish the laws that Moses begins to present in the first reading. Rather, he came “to fulfill” them.
To fulfill the law, Jesus gives us a clear example to us of how God wishes us to live. The promise in the first reading is that the law gives life. Jesus confirms this by his life. Faithful to God’s will, he dies that we may all have life.
We must follow the laws God has given. The pursuit of holiness may well be holiness, but it isn’t truly a pursuit of holiness unless we depend on God’s grace. Through the sacraments.
And there, we, like the Israelites, will discover God’s presence, grace, and mercy.