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  • Sacred Heart Church

02.16.2020 Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Updated: Apr 25







The Greater in the Kingdom of Heaven


Lectio

Matthew 5:17-37

“Jesus said to his disciples:

17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, "You shall not murder'; and "whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, "You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 "You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 "It was also said, "Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 "Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, "You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be "Yes, Yes' or "No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Meditatio

The Context

This text is an on-going commentary on the Beatitudes that instructs on how to put in practice the values they describe. It is the central message of the section that runs through Chapters 5-7 and shows that the Kingdom of God turns our understanding of wealth and power upside down in favour of the human dignity of the children of God.

The other Synoptic Gospels do not contain these verses. In fact, it seems that Matthew, before starting to deal with the rest of Jesus’ ministry wants to clarify that the accusations the Sanhedrin will make against Jesus were void and unfair for He (and all Christians for that matter) was not a rebel, a heretic or a man out of his senses. Jesus fulfills the Law of Moses because He is greater than Moses.

Jesus insists on the deeper meaning of the Law and not merely on the external performance of rules. But to understand how He does this, we need to take into consideration that, what we call “the Law of Moses”, may refer to different things:

1. The Law of Moses can be the name given to the first five books of the Bible (the Torah);

2. It can also refer to the juridical norms contained specially in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy;

3. Or it could eventually designate the practical interpretation of those norms.

The Scribes and Pharisees

In this passage we come closer of Jesus’ understanding of the Law. First, after the claim of his faithful fulfilment of the Law of God, He gives a clear warning not to become like the Scribes and Pharisees, who, moved by zeal of the law, become rigid legalists for whom the rules and norms are the absolute measurement for the salvation of souls.

Today, also Pope Francis warns us against the temptation of new forms of Pelagianism, namely, of the understanding that we can achieve salvation by our own will power and the mere fulfilment of laws and regulations[1].

Then, Jesus continues making a re-interpretation of the Law of Moses. After saying that He fulfils the Law, he now proclaims his supremacy over Moses, by giving the right interpretation of the Law. Calling on the spirit of the Law, Jesus gives the person a more challenging task than that of a mere application of norms. Coming in touch with the spirit of the Law implies internalization of its values and on-going discernment of what God’s will is in each person, in each circumstance.

In so doing, we avoid: first of all, placing ourselves above others; secondly, we avoid passing judgment on other people by applying our own standards and understanding on them.

In short, salvation does not depend on us, but on God’s grace, which allows us to see what God’s will is. Besides that, God will give us the energy/strength/desire to keep and fulfil his will.

Teaching about the Fifth Commandment

The first thing Jesus notes, is that “murder” does not imply the immediate death of the murderer, but rather his/her “judgment”, because the reasons for a murder can lighten the punishment from death penalty to exile, or even absolution.

Jesus, then, extends the application of this commandment to unfair treatment of one’s brother/sister in three degrees: anger, liable to general judgment; insult, which deserves public judgment (by a council); or saying "You fool”, which is liable to “the hell of fire”[2].

What we see here is Jesus passing from noticing an internal feeling, to making a light insult; to passing a judgment of the brother/sister. And even if this applies primarily to one’s brother/sister (meaning a member of the Christian community), it will be expanded in the following verse to “others” as Matthew uses the word “accuser” to designate the one who allegedly has the upper hand in a case before a tribunal.


Teaching about Adultery and Divorce

Jesus re-interprets the commandment on adultery going to the root of its significance. He will do it on other topics, too, later on in the Gospel (Mt. 15: 1-9). There is much teaching about adultery and divorce than meets the eye in this text.

First of all, we may notice the general terms in which the sentence is said, for it does not say if the man who looks at a woman is single or married, or if the woman looked at is married or single. What seems clear is the strong statement made about the value of the purity of heart and the purity of intention in the relationships among sexes, one of the strongest warning of all the Gospel, not having to take it literally, but seriously, for Jesus is not promoting self-inflicting amputations!

We can say that, at the time of Jesus, women not only did not have access to a request for divorce, as a matter of fact, they were clearly discriminated to the point that according to a school of thought at the time, a woman could have received a certificate of divorce just for not preparing a good meal.

Jesus, who had women following and ministering to him, stands as a clear promotor of women’s rights and dignity. And Matthew will deal with divorce later on (Mt. 19: 3-9).

For the Church’s present understanding of a pastoral approach to divorce, we could have a look to the latest teaching of Pope Francis on the topic[3].

Teaching about Swearing

There are different degrees of importance in this matter. It is not the same to swear freely for no reason in a casual conversation, or we can swear for important matters to make a point clear, or finally, we can be called to swear in a magistrate’s room involving a life or death sentence. So this must have been the case in Jesus’ times, too.

Again, Jesus is clear about his position: swearing is not needed for a Christian who always treats his/her affairs with honesty and sincerity of heart.

Oratio

In front of the values Jesus proposes, any person and any culture, for that matter, is found wanting. We may ask forgiveness in our hearts, if we find that we are not as different from Scribes and Pharisees as Jesus would like us to be; however, we also come to Him giving thanks for giving us a hint to his unique understanding of what a Christian looks like, for the encouragement He wants us to be people of undivided heart, pure eyes and straightforward tongues.


Contemplatio

We contemplate Jesus fulfilling the whole meaning of the Scripture, not just petty regulations, but the true spirit of the Law. We contemplate the purity of his Heart, the straightforwardness of his statements, the reflection of God’s love in his words and actions.

We contemplate our vocation to live the Beatitudes in all aspects of our lives. We can pose for a moment to ask God to give us a lead into what our lives would be if we but keep His Law of Love to the smallest detail.

With our eyes fixed on the Kingdom of God and its Justice, we can look at the world affairs with the desire of God for a peaceful world, a healthy environment, a just society and peoples moved by the desire to eradicate every kind of evil.

Oh Lord, the Light of My Life!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LW_3JsTjvjM

Taizé

Oh, Lord the Light of My Life! My God Shine out within My Darkness My God, My God, Shine out within My Darkness My God, My God, Shine out within My Darkness.

Oh Lord the…

[1] “GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE” No.49. Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset, even though they speak warmly of God’s grace, “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style”.[46] When some of them tell the weak that all things can be accomplished with God’s grace, deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added. They fail to realize that “not everyone can do everything”,[47] and that in this life human weaknesses are not healed completely and once for all by grace.[48] In every case, as Saint Augustine taught, God commands you to do what you can and to ask for what you cannot,[49] and indeed to pray to him humbly: “Grant what you command, and command what you will”.[50] [2] “Gehenna” this recurrent term in Matthew’s Gospel (5.22.29ff; 10.028;18.9;23.15.33) etymologically refers to a oven placed in the valley of Hinnom meant for the human sacrifice of children in favour of the god Moloc (Jr. 7:31;32:35; 2Kings. 23.10). [3] Amoris Laetitia, nos. [241-246] “Accompaniment after breakdown and divorce”.

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