|6th Sunday in Ordinary time, 12 Feb 2017|
From the Dean’s Desk
Last week’s Gospel [Matthew 5:13-16] was the beginning of a new section in the Sermon on the Mount, for here Jesus brings the elements of the Law into realistic and everyday situations. In being salt and light, our actions challenge people to take on the mission of Christ. In today’s Gospel [Matthew 5:17-37] Jesus challenges us to evaluate our response to various realities.
He presents these in the form of antitheses: ‘You have heard how it was said of our ancestors…but I say to you…’ In this way Jesus being true to his statement at the beginning of today’s Gospel: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them [5:17]. He begins with the law that prohibits the killing of a person. Jesus then brings it back to a situation that if left unheeded may result in the physical harm of the other. Here he challenges us to consider the element of ‘anger’ in our lives and relationships. We all have been angry with a particular person or group, and if our anger is not checked, then anger may turn to rage and we can find ourselves wanting to physically assault another person. Jesus here attempts at challenging us to do all we can to curb our anger against another person – to come to terms with them. If we do not, then even our participation in community worship will be affected.
Jesus then takes up the situation of adultery and divorce. Here he states that if we entertain and deepen our lustful thoughts towards another, then we are committing adultery in our hearts, simply because such unchecked feelings can result in the abusive treatment of another person. Here Jesus is challenging the presence of jealousy, coveting of another, and lust as the basis for adultery and even the breakdown of marriages.
Lastly he speaks of the various oaths that can be stated as assurance of our honesty. Jesus states that we should simply go about fulfilling all that we say we are going to do without swearing any oath or promise in order to fulfil it. We need to realise our potential in achieving the things we say we are going to attempt. If we know that a situation is too hard for us then we should not attempt it at all, instead of vowing that we will be able to fulfil something beyond our means. Our honesty and truthfulness is at stake here.
The elements touched upon here by Jesus brings to mind the theme put forward in our first reading today from Ecclesiasticus [14:15-20], where the author highlights the element of free will given to us by God. We need to choose wisely in our actions: ‘Man has life and death before him; whichever he prefers better will be given him’ [15:17]. The challenge of today’s Gospel is that we need to think, choose and respond to situations according to the mind of God. Our free will – our conscience – needs to be well informed and prolific in the ways of God. Through prayer and reflection on the Scriptures we come to know God’s will a little better and we place ourselves in a better position to act in a Godlike manner. The onus is on us to respond wholeheartedly to God’s grace.
Fr Robert Bossini