All Day (Wednesday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 3: Wednesday Not One Iota Christian life demands extreme precision. We must carefully observe even the smallest precepts and disdain none of them.
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 3: Wednesday
Not One Iota
Christian life demands extreme precision. We must carefully observe even the smallest precepts and disdain none of them. When we slacken in little things, we fall into greater evils. “He who despises small things will fail little by little” (Sir. 19:1).
To establish the high ideal of Christian justice, Jesus lays down this admirable principle: “Till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).
He has in view here what was foretold about him in the Law and the prophets, which is why he says, “I have come . . . to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). As to what was foretold in the law, here are the chief points: the birth of Christ from a virgin, his suffering, his Cross, his Resurrection, the conversion of the world and of the Gentiles and the reprobation and just punishment of the Jews. These are the chief points, but not all, for there is the iota as well, that is, each minor point. These also must be accomplished. It was necessary that his garments be divided and that the soldiers gamble for his tunic.
See the great precision in so subtle a point: this is the iota, the smallest letter. He will be sold — that is perhaps a great point — but that it should be for thirty pieces of silver, that the potter’s field should be bought with it: these are the iota, the smallest letter, and it should not be overlooked. It was the same with the requirement that he thirst and that he be slaked with vinegar. He would suffer: that is a chief point. But that it should take place outside the city: that is the iota. He will be sacrificed like the Paschal lamb, but his bones will no more be broken on the Cross than those of the lamb were: again, the iota.
Jesus means that everything said by way of foreshadowing in the Law will be accomplished in truth in the Gospel, even to the least circumstances. Everything in the Law, even the smallest detail, is significant, and everything, even the smallest detail, will be accomplished in the Gospel. “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” (Deut. 25:4). St. Paul applies this to preachers (1 Tim. 5:18). It is the same with other matters. “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Deut. 14:21). “If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest . . . you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall let the mother go, but the young you may take.” And “you shall not wear a mingled stuff, wool and linen together. You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of your cloak” (Deut. 22:6-7, 11-12). Each of these little matters bears great significance as an encouragement to Christians to practice mildness, moderation, simplicity, uprightness, and every other virtue.
The conclusion that Jesus draws is that we must not forget even the least precepts. If everything that God foretold about his Son was accomplished down to the smallest letter, then we must always fulfill everything that has been foretold for us.
Consider to what extent this is true: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). If the sun were to disappear all at once, and the world’s lamp were to be extinguished in the middle of the day, if the earth were to give way before our feet, and the once-solid foundation were to be reduced to powder, what misery would be ours! Everything would be lost. But how much greater is the evil if the least of the commandments of Jesus Christ be ignored.
Suffering restores order. Punishment for sin is the rule. You come to order through suffering, just as you stray by sinning. Sin without punishment would be the worst disorder, as the disorder not of the man who sins but of the God who does not punish. This disorder will never come to pass, however, because God, who is the rule itself, cannot be unlawful.
As this rule is perfect, perfectly straight and without the least bend, anything that does not conform to it breaks upon it and will feel its invincible and immutable rectitude.
But if the threats are to be accomplished, the promises will be as well. Go to your crucifix: look upon it and see all of the predictions accomplished, even the least of them. Say to yourself: everything will be fulfilled, and the happiness that has been promised to me will not fail. I will see God, I will love him, I will praise him forever and ever, and all my desires will be fulfilled, all my hopes accomplished. Amen. Amen.