Catechism of the Catholic Church

148 Part One I. J esus and the L aw 577 At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issued a solemn warning in which he presented God’s law, given on Sinai during the first covenant, in light of the grace of theNewCovenant: Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law, until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 329 578 Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all-embracing detail—according to his own words, down to “the least of these commandments.” 330 He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly. 331 On their own admission the Jews were never able to observe the Law in its entirety without violating the least of its precepts. 332 This is why every year on the Day of Atonement the children of Israel ask God’s forgiveness for their transgressions of the Law. The Law indeed makes up one insepa- rable whole, and St. James recalls, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” 333 579 This principle of integral observance of the Law not only in letter but in spirit was dear to the Pharisees. By giving Israel this principle they had led many Jews of Jesus’ time to an extreme religious zeal. 334 This zeal, were it not to lapse into “hypocritical” casuistry, 335 could only prepare the People for the unprecedented intervention of God through the perfect fulfillment of the Law by the only Righteous One in place of all sinners. 336 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son. 337 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people,” because he will “faithfully bring forth 329 Mt 5:17-19. 330 Mt 5:19. 331 Cf. Jn 8:46. 332 Cf. Jn 7:19; Acts 13:38-41; 15:10. 333 Jas 2:10; cf. Gal 3:10; 5:3. 334 Cf. Rom 10:2. 335 Cf. Mt 15:3-7, Lk 11:39-54. 336 Cf. Isa 53:11; Heb 9:15. 337 Cf. Gal 4:4. 1965 1967 1953 527