In the U.S. We have a funny relationship to law. It would seem to be a love-hate relationship with law. We praise the justice of our laws (or the vast majority of them) and yet we cling so passionately to "liberty" which so often is described as a total absence of any kind of restriction, even laws. This is one example of the complex relationship between law and freedom.
Jesus confronts a kind of Legalism in today's Gospel. In fact, every reading we heard points to the tension between the letter of the law and the true goal of the law, which is ultimately our sanctification. The law is meant to make us holy, and that means our bodies and our souls, and as we mentioned in the penitential act today, includes our thoughts, our words, our actions and omissions ("what I have done and what I have failed to do"). However, laws can only really govern our actions, the very important first step in achieving sanctity but certainly not the complete fulfillment. So if our life revolves around the law, then we will miss the mark. God wants more. We will be forgetting the heart, where holiness is completed.
For example, if we are playing a sport, we don't want to focus on all the rules. It ends up being tedious and frustrating when the game is supposed to be enjoyable and at times exciting. The laws can get in the way if they are treated as the focus of it all. But if they are not mistaken for what it's all about, the laws/rules are the true path to enjoyment.
Jesus says it clearly: the law has to be in our heart. The heart must be pure.
Jessica Hayes – Consecrated Virgin.