New Law of our Lord Jesus Christ – Barnabas

Here the 2nd century Epistle of Barnabas emphasizes the newness of the new law and new covenant in contrast with the Covenant made with Moses and the law given on Mount Sinai.

God has abolished the sacrifices of the old law so that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ imposes no yoke of coercion and its sacrifice is not one made by man. In another place he says to them, Did I command your fathers when they came out of the land of Egypt to offer me burnt offerings and sacrifices? No, but I commanded them this: “Let none of you cherish any evil in his heart against his neighbor, and let none of you be fond of breaking vows.”

If we have any sense then we will understand the loving intention of our Father. He wants us not to err as these people did but to seek how we may make our offering to him. And he tells us: the sacrifice for the Lord is a contrite heart, a heart that glorifies its Maker is a sweet savor to the Lord. My brethren, we must look closely into the matter of our salvation so that the Evil One does not slyly enter our hearts and drag us away from the life that lies before us.

God also says to them, Why are you keeping a fast for me and filling this day with your whinings? I have not decreed this fast, says the Lord, nor this humiliation of man’s soul. Turning to us, he says Here is the fast I decree: relax your iniquitous restrictions, loosen the shackles of your oppressive contracts, let your ruined debtors go free and teat up your unjust agreements. Break your bread and give it to the hungry, if you see a man without clothing, give him clothes of your own. If you see one who is homeless, bring him into your own house.

Let us flee from all vanity, let us hold in aversion the Way of Wickedness and its works. Do not withdraw into solitude as if you were already considered righteous, but come together and seek out the common good. For Scripture says: Woe betide those who are wise in their own eyes and knowledgeable in their own sight.

Let us be men of the Spirit, let us be a temple consecrated to God. As far as we can, let us devote ourselves to living in the fear of God, and let us strive to keep his commandments so that his ordinances become our delight. When the Lord judges the world he will have no favorites: each will receive according to his deeds. If he is good then his righteousness will lead him forward; if he is evil then the reward of iniquity will be in front of him.

Let us never complacently think of ourselves as ‘called’, let us never doze in our sinfulness, or the Prince of Evil may gain power over us and thrust us out from the Kingdom of the Lord. And consider this also, my brethren, you see what great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel and yet in the end they were finally abandoned – let us be very careful not to be among those of whom it was written that many are called but few are chosen.

This collection of excerpts from the second century letter known as the Epistle of Barnabas (cap. 2, 6-10; 3,1.3; 4, 10-14) emphasizes the newness of the new law and new covenant in contrast with the Covenant made with Moses and the law given on Mount Sinai. It is used in the Roman office of readings for Monday of the 18h week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Amos 2:4-16.

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